International Relations Blog | An Elon University Academic Blog


May 10 2011

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Arizona takes controversial immigration law to Supreme Court
The state of Arizona is seeking to have the injunction issued by the state court against its immigration law, SB 1070 lifted. The Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is “confident” it will be lifted. The governor stated, “For decades, the federal government has neglected its constitutional duty to secure the border. It is because of that negligence that Arizona was forced to take action to protect its citizens via SB 1070.” In addition to many other measures, if lifted the law will require “required local law enforcement in Arizona to apprehend and help deport illegal immigrants.” Advocates argue this will lead to racial profiling. The state counters that it will lead to greater protection of Arizona citizens.
New Spy Plane can be Flown by Pilot
Military producer, Northrop Grumman Corp. issued a statement stating that its new spy plane can be used as a drone or piloted. “The company says its Firebird intelligence-gathering system will allow users to gather and transmit high-definition video, infrared video, radar, and listen in on communications at the same time.” The air craft is noted to fly up to 30,000 feet, “with an endurance time as long as 40 hours The aircraft will be shown to the Joint Forces Command during the 2011 Empire Challenge completion.
13 killed in clash on Mexico-U.S. border lake
“Twelve suspected members of the Zetas drug gang and a member of Mexico’s Navy were killed in a shootout on an island in a lake that straddles the U.S.-Mexico border, authorities said Monday.” The shoot out occurred between Texas and Tamaulipas, a state in Mexico. It is believed that the drug traffickers where storing marijuana to be transported to the US off the shores of the lake. Officials seized weapons and ammunition among other things after the encounter.
I chose these three articles because they all had something in common: a nation’s borders. One of the biggest issues for the United States is mainlining safety along its border with Mexico. For decades, illegal immigrants have smuggled humans and narcotics into the country by this measure. Likewise, another border that is vital to US security is that between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The new drone/pilot spy plane will allow the US to better secure the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The US has come under attack for the number of civilian lives lost due to drone attacks in Pakistan. With this new plane, a pilot will be able to better identify civilians and prevent the lost of innocent life. In the earlier ages, border security was vital to the sovereignty of a nation, still today, border security is a most in the archaic international community.

May 10 2011

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Guatemalan First Lady’s Divorce Creates Uproar

The divorce of Sandra Torres from President Alvaro Colom has been finalized. The divorce was granted by a family court in the country. She announced that she would seek divorce from her husband to become eligible to run in the upcoming September election for president. Under the Guatemalan constitution, “close relatives of the president, including spouses, are constitutionally barred from running for office.” By filing for divorce she will be effective able to run to succeed her husband. She stated that while she was “divorcing her husband…she was getting married to the Guatemalan people…” Critics call her actions political and filed petitions against the divorce. However, the divorce was granted. The court stated that it will leave the rest up to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal which administers elections for the country. Likewise, the quickness at which the divorce was granted has come into question. There were 600 petitions for divorce to be heard by the court before Sandra Torres filed that have still not been heard. Former legislatures who helped construct the constitution that bares the election of “close relatives” are seeking the impeachment of President Colom stating that he and his former wife are “conspiring to violate the constitution.”

Lawmaker: Bahrain Trying to Dissolve two Opposition Groups
Bahrain is seeking court action in the dissolution of the Wefaq and Al-Amai movements. The country has long been at odds with a Sunni government and a Shiite majority. The two Shiite groups have been the cause of recent protest against the government. The Bahraini government was resolved to having to seek support of Saudi Arabia to help control protests. While the US has not entered the conflict, Bahrain has long been a US ally. In fact, the Fifth Fleet is anchor there. Protesters are calling for the end of the royal family and the institution of a constitutional monarchy.

Algerian President Announces the Constitution will be Revised

Abdelaziz Bouteflaika of Algeria the aid of constitutional law experts in helping the country revises its constitution. The President says that “necessary changes must be made to the constitution in order to strengthen the democracy.” He also stressed the importance of human rights in the nation. Human Rights Watch states that the Algerian government has state owned broadcasting and limits on private newspapers. At the beginning of the year, the government lifted a two decade long state of emergency which lifted “restrictions on speech and assembly.” The declaration was declared to help the country combat an Islamic insurgency which had attempted to overtake the country during civil war. The war left 150,000 dead.

I found the correlation between these two articles to be very interesting. A constitution is one of the first steps necessary in laying a foundation in order for a nation to maintain peace and sovereignty. However, in Guatemala, the first couple is attempting to sidestep the federal constitution in the name of best serving the Guatemalan people. I believe such an action should be denounced by the international community. In the United Sates, when issues arise that challenge the constitution, the situation is present to a higher court hence the US Supreme Court. In the case of the first lady’s divorce petition, the issue was only hurt by a local court before the divorce was granted with no regard to the large implications. I find this to be ironic considering the fact that the nation of Algeria is implementing constitutional reforms in the sake of preserving the future interest of the country. One interest that the new constitution will seek to protect is human rights. However, in a sense, the Guatemalan first family is violating the rights of its people. Moreover, Bahrain is turning to its court system empowered by its constitution to dissolve opposition groups. I also view this as a miss use of power. While the opposition groups have created unrest in the nation, they should have the freedom of speech to demonstrate their discount with the royal family not be forced to submit to it do to a written declaration.

May 10 2011

The End to the Nuclear Age!

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Is Fukushima as Bad as Chernobyl?
The area surrounding the Fukushima nuclear power plant was elevated to a level seven. A level seven designation is the maximum level. Officials made after reviewing the amount of radiation that has been released from the plant since the accident in early March. “Level seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale involved a major release of radiation with widespread health and environmental effects.” The United Nation’s watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, had the creation of the INES scale to provide a system to measure the severity of nuclear incidents. Similar to the Richter scaled used to determine the strength of earthquakes, the INES scale “attempts to grade nuclear disasters on their potential impact.” The scale ranks disasters on a scale of 1-7. According to the INES Level 1-3 are “incidents” and levels 4-7 are “accidents” with 4 equaling “local consequences,” 5 “wider consequences,” 6 “serious accident,” and being, “a major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.” Fukushima and Chernobyl are the one level seven accidents recorded. However, compared to Chernobyl, Fukushima has released less terabecquerels of radioactive iodines per hour, had a small population surrounding it, and was not caused by human error.
U.S., Japan Announces Joint Post-Crisis Rebuilding Effort
Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State and Japanese Foreign Minister, Takeaki Matsumoto has announced plans for a “joint reconstruction venture” to aid Japan in its long recover from the tsunami and earthquake that devastated the country. Clinton announced that both nations have agreed on the formation of a public-private partnership that will begin reconstruction of the country. Also present at the press conference was Tom Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce and Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides. While details of the venture are being finalized, Clinton stated that the presence of the two men reflects “the American business community’s full faith in Japan’s economic recovery.”
Nine Months to end Japan’s Nuclear Crisis, Plant Owner Estimates
The owner of the Fukushima nuclear plant estimates that it will take engineers approximately six to nine months bring the operation under control. During this period, three months will be utilized to reduce radioactivity levels inside the plant as well as to restore the normal cooling system that help regulate the reactors and spent fuel pools. The remaining months will be need before the fully “shut down” and new domes are constructed over the damaged buildings. Also during this time, the Japanese government will be attempting to decontaminate “the widest possible area” the country announced. Plant officials still do not have knowledge of how much irradiated water is in the basements of the reactor where the cooling equipment is stored. To combat this, new and separate cooling system is being constructed. Until the cooling system is complete, engineers will continue to have to pump almost 50,000 gallons of water a day into each reactor. Of the water pumped in, a unknown percentage is leaking out of the plant. The housing of reactors 1 and 3 has been destroyed by hydrogen explosions. Since then, the government has ordered the evacuation of a 19 mile zone around the plant.

No Time for Nukes
South Korea is considering arming itself with nuclear weapon as a measure to balance power on the peninsula. South Korea states that the North continues to arm itself will the Six Party Talks have been cancelled. Such a move is sure to cause tension in the region. It is believe that China will provide stronger support to the North as a result. This could prove to be a tricky international situation as South Korea is a member of the NPT. Likewise, its ally, the United States, has pledged to decrease its nuclear arms and is currently down to only 200.
The nuclear crisis in Japan reiterates that dispute the difference in international politics that all countries are affected by the action of others. I believe that this tragedy should prompt world leaders to united a seek to settle not only environmental issues (international limits on CO2) but also security issues such as the banning of certain weapons and nuclear proliferation. Due to the devastation that Japan is facing, it is clear for the international community to see the harm that controlled items such as nuclear power can have on the environment and the human population. I believe now would be a perfect time for the United States to reinstitute the Six Party Talks. I also believe that other rogue states seeking nuclear capabilities illegal should be invited to the talks and a tour of Japan. I sincerely believe that once they see firsthand the effects of such institutions (nuclear power) they will consider the aftermath which would follow if their illegal programs went wrong.

May 10 2011

Protecting American Interest?

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Egyptian Copts, reeling from violence, want protection
Violence and unrest has yet again swept the Egypt. The violence intensified to spur the Cabinet to host an emergency meeting and Coptic Christians to call for international protection. A dozen lives were lost and 232 people were injured during a sectarian skirmish outside a church in Cairo. “Officials said violence began over rumors that a Christian woman who converted to Islam was being held at the church against her will.” In light of the violence, Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf rescheduled his travel plans to attend meetings in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates so that he could review the sectarian violence and hold a debriefing. Only about 9% of Egypt’s 80 million citizens identify themselves as Coptic Christians. In the preceding months, conflicts have arisen between the Muslim majority and the Coptic Christian minority which only account for 9% of Egypt’s 80 million citizens. Reports confirm many violent clashes between the religions. Additionally, “tensions flared after a recently-published U.S. government report on international religious freedom detailed the hostility targeting the minority Copts in the predominantly Muslim society.” In the concluding months of 2010, a terrorist group with connections to the Iraqi al Qaeda terrorist organization “announced that all Christians in the Middle East would be ‘legitimate targets,’ as the group’s deadline for Egypt’s Coptic church to release alleged Muslim female prisoners expired.” In response to the demonstrated acts of violence in Egypt against the Coptic Christians, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has added the country to a list of “countries named as the worst violators of religious freedom.”Additionally, the Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that the U.S. armed forces send “existing military assistance” to protect religious minorities in combination with “diplomatic efforts to pressure the new government with reform measures.”

Rebels Question NATO as Fighting Continues
Reports confirm that Gadhafi forces are using Grad missiles and mortars against rebels. The Human Rights Watch also reported the use of cluster bombs which have been banned internationally because of their harming effects against civilians. Loyalist are also accused of using bombs that looked like perfume bottles. In one instance, Gadhafi forces continued to advance its attacks against Ajdabiya while NATO forces called off operations due to weather conditions. A spokensperson for the rebels have question the commitment of NATO forces stating, “we still need NATO’s assistance, but we don’t understand what they are up to…we can’t understand (NATO’s) excuses…we want to save our population from being murdered by these merciless death squads.”
Western Leaders Reject a Future Libya Led by Gadhafi
The United States, Britain, and France released a joint opinion entitled Libya’s Pathway to Peace. The opinion clearly states that a future Libya led by Gadhafi would be “unthinkable…[and] an unconscionable betrayal.” Furthermore the report states that the leader has lost the consent of his people and thus any action that would including leaving him a ruler of the country would contribute to “further chaos and lawlessness.” The leaders of the free world believe do so would create a safe haven for extremist which they state the world “can afford.” Despite this, as long as the embattled leader is still in control of the nation, NATO must continue its strike against the regime. The ultimate goal of the nations is to see a transition from a dictatorship to the beginning of a constitutional process with the Libyan people selecting their new leaders. Additionally, the United Nations and members states will help the people rebuild institutions and infrastructure destroyed during the invasion.
These three articles forced me to ponder the value of “protecting American interest abroad.” For instance, the United States supported the freedom of the Egyptian people from the regime. The United States even called upon Mubarak to step down and to relinquish power to the people. Furthermore, the US supported the efforts of the country as it attempted to create a new government. However, after all the US invest and diplomacy, the country is again in uproar. Sectarians have sparked a fire that even the bipartisan US Commission on International Religious Freedom state in its report demands the deployment of troops. Likewise, reaching to Libya rebel fighters question the dedication of NATO. President Barack Obama stated that the US would not place ground troops in country or have a prolonged mission in Libya. However, without the expertise of the American armed forces, NATO and its allies struggle to gain territory and to protect the Libyan people. Despite the US’s pledge not to have a longstanding commitment to the conflict, the United States along with other Western nations agree Gahdafi cannot remain in power. Do the democracies have plans to murder him? Consider the fallout that is sure to ensure the murder of Osama bin Laden. Protecting “American interest abroad” is continuing to become more costly and dangerous politically and in regards to military personal. I am starting to believe the United States should temporary digress as a global leader.

May 09 2011

More freedoms for Cuba?

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Cuba is taking large steps in an attempt to make international travel more available for their people. Right now, Congress agreed to “study a policy that will allow Cuban residents in the country to travel abroad as tourists”. Actually action and policy change has not been discussed. It should be noted that Cubans are not forbidden from international travel, but must go through a series of requirements and fees must be paid before an exit visa can be granted.

Alongside this, Cuba has also made an official statement that “it is legalizing the sale of real-estate and cars and expanding the ranks of private cooperatives that could serve as engines for the spluttering economy, among other major changes”

These new reforms will hopefully pull Cuba’s economy out of a deep fiscal “morass” while keeping the communist values Fidel Castro established.

Alongside the guidelines for the resale of cars, converting public buildings into housing for residents to ease the housing shortages.

Actions like these will hopefully be a positive impact upon Cuba, however will the government still be able to maintain strong control over their people with these more freedoms? Allowing them to leave and travel and learn more about international and domestic policy will the people of Cuba still be in support  of communism?

May 09 2011

Samoa to switch time zone

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The South Pacific island nation of Samoa, which is located approximately halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, has announced its plan to switch to the west side of the international dateline. Samoa has switched time zones before. 119 years ago it moved to its current time zone in order to “boost its trade and economy”. At the time, their main trade partners were  the United States and Europe, so it made sense for them to switch to a more compatible time zone. Now, the nation is switching back for similar reasons. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielgaoi said that with this time zone change, it will be “far, far easier and more convenient” for Samoa to do business with New Zealand and Australia, their key partners. According to Tuilaepa, “Samoa is currently losing out on two working days a week doing business with New Zealand and Australia”.

The result of this time zone change is that Samoa will be losing a day, as they jump forward in time. Samoa has promoted itself as being “the last place on earth to see the sun each day”, but with the change they better think of a new marketing campaign. However with this time change, Samoa would be put in a different time zone than American Samoa, and the Prime Minister sees this as great tourism opportunity.With just a 30-minute flight, you can re-live the last 24 hours. Tuilaepa said in a statement,

“I think there will be a very exciting experience and it is an experience that we could exploit jointly for tourist promotion, especially with the need to have a holiday, have a birthday celebrated in western Samoa, and then hop over and have the same birthday celebrated in eastern Samoa, that will be very exciting,”

This change will not be fully in effect until January 2012.

May 09 2011

Signing Off: What About the Children?

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A semi-lighthearted post to close off the year – I know this doesn’t use three sources or whatnot, but I think it’ll get people thinking.

One of my favorite YouTube series is the “Kids React” series, where kids from ages 5-14 are shown viral videos and asked questions about them. They’re always hilarious videos. However, yesterday, the latest “Kids React” video was released – their reaction to Osama bin Laden’s death and President Obama’s speech announcing that.

The video was not intended to be a typical “everybody LOL” video; it was intended to have serious matters. The people who make the videos, the Fine brothers (YouTube channel “finebros”), introduced the video by stating that:

It is important to take pause when historic events occur and to reflect on how the next generation views the action of our ever changing world. Though this is a subject more serious than our usual episodes, it is valuable to learn from the insights of more innocent eyes than our own.

I couldn’t agree more.

The kids’ reactions were fascinating right from the start. All of them had heard the news of bin Laden’s death beforehand, although not all had seen the speech. Their first reactions to the news ranged from ecstasy similar to that which was seen all over Elon’s campus that day…

Why would you feel bad? One of the worst people in the world is dead. (Shannon, age 10)

…to general happiness…

Happy. (Emma, age 8 )

Sure, it’s sad that people die, but since he murdered tons of other innocent people, he’s not innocent. (Marlhy, age 9)

…to being unsure how to react…

I asked my mom, “Is that a good thing?”, and she said, “Yeah.” (Dylan, age 9)

…to contemplative happiness and mixed feelings – which was exactly my reaction at the news.

I felt very happy, but also kind of bad. (Megan, age 10)

I was happy that our nation felt pride….That’s good, but I’m not cheering, cause this is still a man’s life. It’s a bad man’s life, but it’s still life. (William, age 10)

The reactions to all the cheering in the streets were mixed as well. There were those who thought it just fine…

Not for good people, but, like, bad people, yeah, it is OK to celebrate that way. (Morgan, age 6)

…but the majority reaction was, like many Americans, thinking the celebrations were overdoing it.

Going out in the streets, that’s just a little too much. (Landon, age 12)

In my opinion, however, this was the most insightful response:

I just think that’s kind of a hypocrite move….When 9/11 happened, they were all cheering in the streets, and we all thought that was wrong. (William)

Reactions were mixed on the possible releasing of photos:

Release them. (Lia, age 14)

I don’t think that they should….Maybe, like, some countries would hate us even more. (Elle, age 9)

Kind of yes, kind of no. (Dylan)

Don’t let the kids see it, though. (Jake, age 11)

Most of the kids were concerned about possible retaliation by other terrorists, wisely noting that the organizations will in no way take bin Laden’s death lightly.

Well, it’s gonna be a lot more dangerous…and then, they’ll get back at us, and we’ll just keep going back and forth. (Athena, age 13)

He’s the leader, so they might get revenge; I heard he has 25 children. (Darius, age 11)

The kids’ thoughts on why terrorists hate the United States were fascinating, as well as their ideas on how to stop terrorism; I’ve quoted enough of the video, so I won’t quote them here. I recommend that you watch the video so you can actually see what they have to say, not just read it.

But overall, I agree with what the Fine brothers had to say at the beginning of the video: that we can learn a lot from eyes more innocent than our own. We need to listen to what the next generation has to say; maybe only then will we truly be able to learn how to help make the world a better place. For them.

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(P.S. I did say this was a semi-lighthearted post, but I haven’t put the lighthearted part in yet. The video did have its hilarious moments; I insert a few of them below.

(On bin Laden) Just a camper – he’s a camper, like on Black Ops. (Landon)

(On other terrorists avenging bin Laden) When one bad guy dies, somehow another one pops up – kind of like Whack-a-Mole; you whack one down, pwoop!…There’s always gonna be a bad guy. (William)

Terrorists, if you’re watching this, please stop terrorizing us. (Shannon)

Ah, kids.)

May 09 2011

Mississippi River Flooding

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Summary: Flooding has been creating much havoc in many Midwestern and southern states within the last week. The US Army has been called in to open a spillway to calm the rising of water in the Mississippi river. These are created to divert water away from the low-lying city of New Orleans. Upstream in Memphis and Tennessee people waited for water to go down as it had reached 14 feet, way above flood stage. In between states such as Louisiana and Mississippi are beginning to prepare for flooding by opening floodgates and levees that officials said are holding up well. “This water that we’re seeing coming by is moving 2 million cubic feet per second,” said Col. Vernie Reichling, Corps of Engineers’ Memphis District commander, of the situation Sunday outside that city. “To use an analogy, in one second that water would fill up a football field 44 feet deep.” “There is no doubt that we are stressing the system,” he said. “These are historic flows.” The river is the highest it’s been since 1937. When it hit 48.7 feet. That flood killed 500 people and destroyed 200 acres of land that means this flood will be almost or even more devastating. The sewage plant is close to shutting down which provides the clean water to drink and bathe in. Memphis is doing okay so far and much of the water is coming from other states tributaries not being able to dump water. The cities mayor said that even though this is a major disappointment he doesn’t expect the flooding to be that bad in their area. In Mississippi people are getting nervous that the nuclear power plant will be shut down soon because an access road is extremely close to becoming flooded. The spillway opened on Monday can accommodate about 1.87 million gallons of water per second, diverting water from the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico by way of Lake Pontchartrain. As a result of the 1927 flood congress passed the Flood Control Act of 1928 that started a massive Public Works program to hold back the river more efficiently and lessen the effects of floodwater. Only minimal rain is expected over the coming days, with daytime temperatures forecast to be in the upper 80s and 90s through Thursday, at which point the water levels should begin to creep back down. “It’s a historic time we’re in all along the Mississippi River,” Fleming said.

Analysis: This is a horrible disaster that is occurring more and more in the past ten years. I feel like over the last few years multiple “acts of god” have destroyed land and ruined people’s lives. If it’s not flooding it’s a tornado, if it’s not a tornado it’s an earthquake.  It is sad to see so many peoples homes go under water when there was nothing they could do about it. After this I think that congress must create another public works program to try and build more levees and other things to stop water. Hopefully within the next 10 years the US government can make this possible.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/05/09/midwest.flooding/index.html?hpt=T1

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/floods-along-the-mississippi-river-lead-to-renewed-calls-for-a-change-in-strategy/2011/05/05/AFjngLUG_story.html

http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/827f0f576f044db98d75c3bb358c2bfa/AR–Arkansas-Flooding/

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

Iran to Release hikers

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Two American hikers are set to stand trial this week on charges of spying. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have been in jail in Iran since 2009. They have been looked up for 21 months isolated from their families and have been denied and kind of due process.

The graduates of University of California at Berkeley had been hiking together in Iraq’s Kurdistan region and then were captured by Iranian border forces for allegedly crossing into Iran illegally.

There is no evidence to support the charges against them and this is morally unacceptable Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa said in a written statement released over the weekend.

CNN. Com says, “The charges they face are as cynical, unjust and unreasonable as the length of their incarceration and it is time for Iranian judicial authorities to stop playing games with their lives.”

The two men share a 10 by 14 foot cell and haven’t had entrance to their Iranian lawyer. Their lawyer that was assigned Masoud Shafii has pronounced them not guilty and says the case should be distant so trials can go on!

My opinion is if they don’t have any evidence they have nothing to hold them on. For them to be locked away for 21 months now and haven’t seen their families in years is terrible. I feel the U.S. should get involved more involved and help these guys out!