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May 09 2011

Did We Forget About the South?

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With all of the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, the tornado ridden south has been driven from many people’s mind.  But the south is still in major catastrophe mode.  One mayor even ventured far enough to call it a “Katrina-like event.”  While it may not be completely on that scale, it is definitely a major disaster and the south is going to have a very difficult time over coming it.  Alabama was hit especially hard by the tornadoes, with at least 249 out of the 327 deaths (the death toll is still expected to rise) being in Alabama.  With the country already being hit hard with the recent recession, the tornadoes have really took a turn on the southern state and it is going to take a lot for them to come back from it.  It is expected to take years for them to fully recover from this type of disaster.  But after 178 confirmed tornadoes hitting the south and southwest, it’s not really a surprise how much damage it caused.  This was the largest outbreak of tornadoes in US history.

It seems though that the communities are really coming together to help rebuild their towns.  While people are still searching for bodies in the wreckage, the university in Tuscaloosa is using fraternity and sorority houses to hand out food and other aid to students and residents.  It also looks like the support for the federal government is really helping the states that have been revenged by the disaster. Many people have been taking pictures of the damages and you can see how the tornadoes utterly destroyed some cities, while other landmarks are left completely unharmed.  Volunteers have also been extremely helpful in the cleanup, but there is just so much destruction that it looks like it is going to take a very long time.

Lets just hope that even with all of the media on Osama bin Laden, we can still take time to think about the victims of the tornadoes, not just in Alabama, but the midwest and upper south too.  They have had a very devastating disaster come through and rip their homes and cities apart.  They need our support right now.  As we have all recently discovered, it is possible for America to band together as a nation, we need to focus that energy on other things as well, not just celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden.

May 08 2011

To Release Photos or Not

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President Obama has decided not to release any images of Osama Bin Laden with a gaping wound from a bullet to the head.  While many people have questioned this decision, it seems to have a lot of support.  Obama was quoted saying that, “It’s important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool,” in an interview with 60 min.  Personally I agree with the President. These images could easily be spread around and turn bin Laden into a martyr.  They, like Obama said, could entice violence and revenge against the American people.  Plus, all of Al Qaeda knows that he is dead, and that is what is most important, because that will be where the biggest blow to morale is.  If any important leaders have questions about the authenticity of Osama’s death, I’m sure that Obama would be more than willing to show him the photo, but he just does not want it to be released to the general public.  Some people are saying that releasing photos will convince skeptics that Osama bin Laden is really dead, but, as Obama said, the pictures are not going to convince conspiracy theorists, it will just fuel their fire by saying that the pictures are photoshopped or something along those lines.

While there will not be any photos of Osama’s corpse released, President Obama has decided to release some of the home movies that have been recovered from the compound. These movies show Osama when he is at his most vulnerable. Osama bin Laden was extremely conscious of his media image.  One of the most interesting videos shows him wearing a wool cap with a blanket wrapped around him and rocking slightly back and forth, while watching various videos of himself.  Many people are interested in why a man who was so careful about his media image would have a video of himself in such a vulnerable state, his beard hadn’t even been dyed black, like it had in all of the other videos, it was very grey.  Some of the other videos released seem to be test shots for media broadcasts, and one that was to be addressed to the American people seems to be as recent as this fall.

The sound has been turned off in all of the videos, Obama does not want the propaganda messages of terrorists to be broadcast.  But we can still see the vulnerable side of the once terrorist leader, who now seems so much less of a threat when we see him rocking back in forth, old and frail, with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders.

May 02 2011

North Korea In a State of Emergency

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After a very harsh winter that caused massive crop failure, people all over North Korea are starving to death.  This seems very familiar, in 1990 North Korea lost 1 million of their 25 million citizens to severe famine and now it is happening all over again.  Former President Jimmy Carter, after a recent visit to North Korea, accused the US and South Korea of human rights violations because of the lack of aid that we have given to the North. The US State Department responded with reminding everyone that it was North Korea who suspended US aid in 2009 after they refused to continue the six-party talks. The North expelled all humanitarian workers and required that the leave the food. The US has also been very wary of giving aid to North Korea because it is unlikely that the aid gets where it is supposed to.  For example, it is likely that most of the food aid goes to the military instead of the citizens who desperately need it.  The US wants it to be clear that no one but the North Korean government is to blame for the death of so many of it’s citizens.

It seems though that North Korea is starting to realize that it can’t do everything on it’s own anymore.  Although they are still not agreeing to any six-party talks, they have been discretely reaching out for aid from a few food aid agencies. Earlier this year it was reported that the food shortage was getting so bad that North Koreans were being forced to scavenge for wild grasses and herbs to feed themselves.

On April 29th the UN announced that they would launch an operation to feed 3.5 million people.  The plan is expected to cost just about 200 million dollars.  Activists in South Korea also sent over 10 balloons filled with DVD’s, leaflets, radios, and dollar bills to North Koreans. The North had threatened to respond with artillery fire, but it seems to have gone off without a problem. Although North Korea clearly has some major issues in it’s government, is it fair for the world to let millions of people starve? Thankfully we have started to give aid, but these people need help. But what can we do? How do we know it is going to the right people? The UN says that it has put measures in place that will ensure the aid gets to the right people. Hopefully that works and at least some people can benefit from the UN aid.

Apr 08 2011

Unrest in the Ivory Coast

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With all of the fighting in Libya recently, many people are unaware of what is going on in the Ivory Coast. Unfortunately there is also a large amount of civil unrest and so far many people have been killed due to the outbreaks of fighting.  A few months ago the Ivory Coast held elections for the new President, and a man named Alassane Ouattara won over the current president, Laurent Gbagbo.  While this would be all well and good, but Gbagbo refuses to step down from his presidency and continues to insist that he won the election.

The rest of the world has recognized Ouattara as the standing president of the Ivory Coast but Gbagbo is now using military power to defend the presidency against Ouattara.  This has caused the UN to deplore troops to the Ivory Coast to keep peace.  There has been fighting for at least 3 months now but it seems that with the UN’s help Gbagbo is finally being forced to step down.  Although, he has made no comment that supports that, his troops are depleting and the fighting seems to be dying down.

The Ivory Coast is also having issues because of the sanctions that the UN put on it because of former President Gbagbo and his refusal to step down from the presidency. That was all well and good but some believe that the UN is overstepping their boundaries in the Ivory Coast with the recent attack on Gbagbo’s rocket launchers. This is so prevalent now because the UN seems to be much more willing to use force to stop internal conflicts, which has also been demonstrated in it’s use of force in Libya. It will be interesting to see if this is just a temporary change in UN peacekeeping strategies, or if this becomes a regular strategy.

This fighting also has its roots in history, “for decades the Ivory Coast has been a place of stability and prosperity in an otherwise troubled region” but now there is a north/south divide that is tearing the nation apart.  The Ivory Coast experienced an economic crash in the early 90’s and after that the many foreigners were suddenly unwelcome and the south started to label the people in the North as foreigners.  The North is mostly Muslim, which is where Ouattara has most of his support, while the South, which is mostly Christian holds Gbagbo’s supporters.

This divide is one of the main reasons behind the fighting, but with the end of fighting and the presidency being filled by Ouattara, this could also bring the end to the divide between North and South, hopefully what looks like the end really is and the Ivory Coast can go back to being the strong stable country that it once was.

Mar 14 2011

Possible Nuclear Disaster in Japan

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Over the past weekend a major earthquake has struck Japan. It has caused extreme damage to the country.  Right now it is estimated that 10,000 people could have perished in the quake.  The earthquake registered at an outstanding 8.9, compared at the 9.1 earthquake that triggered the massive tsunami in 2004 for that killed over 230,000 people.  There have been major issues arising from the quake in Japan, many buildings have been destroyed, and many people are left homeless.  There have been large rescue efforts to recover people who have been trapped in the rubble or stranded.  There is also a lack in supplies and clean drinking water.  The pictures of the damage are horrible, there is rubble everywhere and so many people are left not knowing whether their loved ones are dead or alive, or left without a house, or without food and water.

One of the most pressing problems resulting from the earthquake is the explosion, and now second explosion of one of Japan’s nuclear complexes.  This is predicted to cause major damages to both environmental and human lives.  It is currently unknown how extensive the damage will be.  If everything goes well they will be able to contain the meltdown and there will be few lasting damages. But it is also very possible that the explosion could lead to damages that are greater than even those of Chernobyl.  Fortunately for the US, it is unlikely that radioactive particles will be able to reach across to the United States enough to cause damage.  The damage will likely go down over the ocean, but it is unknown how that will effect aquatic life either.

Feb 21 2011

Unrest in Lybia

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As well as many of the countries all over the world, Libya is experiencing many rebellions and uprisings.  Many people have died so far due to the violence that the country is experiencing.  In an interview a Libyan woman talked about how the people of the country lived like animals, and how something needed to change.  They seem to be taking a leaf out of Egypt’s book and looking for a government that does more for it’s people.  The woman also talks about how the protestors are being killed by government officials who are hired to kill the protestors.

Gaddafi’s son, Sayf al-Islam addressed Libya.  He blamed the uprisings on outside influences and citizens living in foreign countries.  He talked about how the citizens of Libya are trying to copy Egypt.  It seems as though many countries are starting to follow in Egypt’s footsteps and demand a government for the people, even in China a new movement that is being coined the “jasmine revolution” seems to be picking up speed and supporters.

Sayf al-Islam talks about how Libya is trying to create a facebook revolution.  This phrase has been used before, but personally, I have never heard it used to describe something as serious as a rebellion in a country.  This proves how influential the internet has become.  People who never had access to information about government and what was going on in other countries suddenly find themselves with this portal to countries across the world.  They are seeing what it is like to live in a country run by the people and now they want that.

Our world is going through some major changes, and it will be for a long time.  I believe that this is just a start to all of the revolutions that will be happening throughout the world in the near future.  It seems that is the era of the facebook revolution.