Links to Start Your Week 5/12/14

Europe

Some profiles of Ukrainian militia members.

Representatives of the Holy See (the Vatican) have been ordered to appear before UN human rights panel to discuss the Church’s approach to women who seek contraception and abortion and how the Church has dealt with sexual abuse committed by priests. This is really interesting because these issues have not occurred only within the Vatican itself, but in places around the world with Catholic priests, so it calls into question how responsible the Vatican itself is for the actions of its priests abroad.

 

Africa

Ghana is possibly one of the most successful democracies in Africa. In recent years, they started producing oil. You all may be familiar with the concept of the oil curse, which basically is that when a country starts producing oil, instead of raising the standard of living for the whole population, the profits enrich a few corrupt politicians. That has not happened in Ghana, which is great, but there has been some mismanagement that means the oil profits have not had the positive effects people hoped. However, there is still hope that the democratic tradition in Ghana will help them invest and spend more responsibly.

 

Asia

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has stepped down. The Senate is set to begin impeachment proceedings against her (yes, for an office she has already resigned. From what I can tell, the purpose is more that if they “impeach” her now it would also ban her from participating in politics for the next five years) on charges of abuse of power. She reportedly failed to prevent or stop fraud in a rice-subsidy program, even after several government agencies attempted to alert her to the fraud.

Pakistan says it has successfully tested a short-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Given Pakistan’s contentious relationship with fellow nuclear-armed neighbor, India, this is definitely an interesting development.

 

National Security

“Current and former employees and contractors (of America’s 17 intelligence agencies) may not cite news reports based on leaks in their speeches, opinion articles, books, term papers or other unofficial writings.

Such officials “must not use sourcing that comes from known leaks, or unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information,” it says. “The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security.” Translation: even if information has already been leaked to the public, intelligence officials cannot reference it in public ever. That seems in keeping with promises for increased transparency and also like it will be effective in debating legal experts on our surveillance policies.

The State Department has issued its annual report on international terrorism. Their broad analysis of tends on the subject seems fairly accurate: they mention the fragmenting of Al Qaeda and the rise of autonomous organizations that have similar ideologies but fewer links to core Al Qaeda leadership and the fact that sectarian violence in the Middle East continues to set the stage for more terrorist activity. However, other aspects of the report reveal its political nature. For example, Cuba is still listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, despite the fact that it admits that “there was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.” It mentions that Cuba has hosted several members of the Basque separatist group ETA, but then adds that it has relocated several of those members in cooperation with the Spanish government. It also says that they have hosted members of the FARC, a Colombian terrorist group, but then also points out that it has been hosting negotiations between FARC and the Colombian government. So…those rascally Cubans. Always up to no good. And Pakistan continues to be conspicuously absent from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, despite the well-documented links between that country’s intelligence organization and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that carried out the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, and to the Pakistani Taliban. (Both of these groups are designated in the report as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.)

Part of the problem in American diplomacy is that we don’t have the same standards and expectations of professionalism for our diplomats as we do for our military. For instances, many ambassadors are politically appointed. The last time a political appointment was given to a military commander was in the Civil War. Maybe time to update how we run the State Department. Also, American military officers can spend up to 40 percent of their careers in training. American diplomats basically do no training beyond an initial training period before their first assignment. Also, we should probably actually fund our diplomatic corps if we expect them to accomplish anything significant.

 

 

Human Rights

The U.N. is calling out the U.S. for effectively criminalizing homelessness.

Freedom House has issued a report stating that press freedom around the world is at the lowest point in a decade. A newspaper in Burma has published an editorial on the state of press freedom there that I think is quite excellent.

 

Economy

The majority of new jobs added in the U.S. economy since 2001 are temporary jobs. This is part of a drive by employers to lower costs: temporary or contract employees can be terminated more easily at profits decline, and generally do not receive benefits.

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