Kissinger’s Nuclear Deterrence and North Korea

When the Cold War began heating up in the 1950s, an expert in nuclear strategy named Henry Kissinger turned his theory of “delicate balance of terror” into policy. The idea was that threatening the Soviet Union with nuclear annihilation will keep them in check. Likewise, the Kremlin had its own weapons of mass destruction pointed towards the United States. It was essentially the nuclear version of a standoff.

Today, there are nine nations with nuclear weapons: China, Israel, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, United States, India, North Korea and Pakistan. The Russian Federation leads the pack with 7,300 nuclear weapons, of which 1,790 are operational. The United States is a close second with an estimated 6,970 total nuclear weapons.

While tension between Russia and the United States have been high recently due to possible election influence by Russia, and Putin’s support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the two Cold War foes have not had


Aid & Politics in Africa

“The worst drought in 60 years has thrown some 13 million people across the Horn of Africa into crisis. In Somalia, ravaged by two decades of conflict, the consequences have been disastrous. We ask if aid in this region of the world has become politicised? And has Washington’s pre-occupation with terrorism in the Horn of Africa contributed to the deadly consequences of this disaster?”

Al Jazeera English


Photo courtesy of David Axe.


The answer to the first question is, “Duh.”

Aid work in Africa has been tied to politics since the first time outside governments decided to step in. I think the grassroots Christian groups and other non-profit organizations (like Doctors Without Borders) do a better job at maintaining aid. OK, so there are some bible-thumping on the part of the Christian groups and the other NPOs tend to lean left, but this does not affect the fact that they are helping out in practical terms. When it’s a government involve, not just Washington in this example, the rice and anti-malaria kits come with diplomats. Famine should never be used as a pawn in a political chess game. The only benefit of a government body bringing aid is that they are backed up by millions of tax payer money and logistical resources.

Now, this goes deeper than that. In the book “Dead Aid”, which I read a while back and is a book worth checking out at your local library, the author, economist Dambisa Moyo, states that aid actually harms Africa more than it helps them. What you get (and this is obvious) is a system of dependence. Dependence on outsiders is what set Africa back to begin with, like colonialism for instance, in which they had no choice but to depend on their European colonizers. You see, food is politics. Famine is one of the best ways to gain power over a region politically.

On to the second question. Pirates, Muslim militants and warlords have been conducting a bloody orgy in the Horn for some time now. It doesn’t help that western-made guns end up there either. The U.S., I think, still remembers the Blackhawk incident in Somalia. But if top officials are found in the Horn, the U.S. will go there and destroy them. And it has been conducting operations there, even if just intelligence gathering.

So, what you have now is an imbalance of priorities. Do we go after terrorists or aid the civilians? There are really no one-way options here. It’s like a branch with an intricate set of twigs protruding out. You can’t have access to the civilians without dealing with the political elements of the country. In this case, before you can even bring aid you need to do some politicizing, which may contradict with my first argument, but in this circumstance you have no choice but to give in to the push-pull mechanism of political bargaining.

The West is good at setting up sanctions and that may work well for countries like Iran and North Korea, because they’re major players in the global stage, but a nation in the Horn won’t flinch a nerve over threats of sanction. To them this is nothing new. When was the last time anyone had truly done anything in Africa that affected the region? Oh, right, Libya. But when it comes to sub-Saharan Africa, it’s as if these government suits show a kind of guilt. Oh dear, we made a mess of that continent. Let’s just throw them money from afar. Stepping into a sub-Saharan African country is like stepping back into your own crime scene.

Quelling terrorism anywhere is an important priority, but the local governments in that area need to step their game up as well. American/NATO operations are still in Af-Pak. We don’t need another front. We just pulled our troops out of Iraq; Let’s give them a rest. Washington should focus more on humanitarian efforts (with as less politics involved if possible) and diplomatic missions than military actions. This can be done by taking a more regulatory role, in that making sure aid money and supplies actually get into the hands of civilians and the non-profit organizations already working there. The U.S. and the EU needs to make sure that medicine and canned foods don’t end up being filtered through local governments and are used for their personal profit. Helping with economic programs might also work. Tell the local government to either get with the program or face a larger crisis. If aid—medical, food and educational—isn’t put to use properly, the country could sink deeper into a death pit. The links between terrorism and poverty has been well-studied in developing countries. I’d rather see people being fed than being blown up in a guerrilla war between western forces and militants.


U.S. Embassy to Zimbabwe Police: Stop Political Violence

On Friday, the U.S. embassy in Harare voiced its concern over the failings of Zimbabwe’s police in reducing political violence in the country. Though it recognized the efforts of police officers, prosecutors and other court officials who have worked hard in eradicating corruption and crime, the U.S. embassy is becoming more worried about the officials who exercise political bias.

On September 23, four individuals were allegedly beaten to death by police officers after they were transported from their village by private security guards. There have also been reports by human rights groups that local activists are being harassed and targeted by officers, such as leaders of the group Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). Extortion and intimidation tactics by politically aligned gangs also seem to be prevalent in Harare.

All of these reports and allegations have caused a stir within the U.S. embassy, who emphasized that such level of corruption will only perpetuate further violence in the country.

The Government of Zimbabwe has made a pledge to uphold and protect human rights and, to show its commitment, it is to appear before the Human Rights Council’s Universal Period Review on October 13. The U.S. embassy states that it wishes for the government to fulfill these promises and show more effort in exercising human rights principles.



Members of Opus Dei Face Slavery Charges


The ultra-secretive Catholic organization is perhaps popularly known through its fictional depiction in The Da Vinci Code, but the slavery charges that were slapped on some of its members in a Paris court, on Thursday, is definitely real. The plaintiff, Catherine Tissier, claimed that she was forced to work as a servant for no pay in return. She says that her labor consisted of cleaning and serving for 14 hours per day, every day of the week.

This recent case is the culmination of a nine-year investigation into the group’s inner-workings. The defendants in the case are high-ranking officials from a school and religious retreat near Paris. The defendants deny the allegations and claimed that the plaintiff was paid fairly.

Opus Dei is backed by the Catholic Church and has an estimated 85,000 members worldwide. The group has received much criticism from the public due to their secretive nature and is accused of conspiratorial acts. More information about the group, through their own words, can be found at their website.


Department of Defense to Return Facilities in Germany

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that it will close several of its facilities in Germany and return them to their host-nation. This is part of a cost-cutting initiative taken by the U.S. European Command; shutting down “non-enduring sites” and installations throughout the continent.


Facilities that are being removed from the DoD’s property inventory include:  the Oberweis Annex warehouse, which will save the federal government about $1.24 million; communication sites at Pruem Air Station, Hahn Communication Station and ARFT radio relay station, which will vanquish over half a million dollars from the budget; an ammunition storage facility in Hochspeyer; and Bitburg Storage Annex No.2, which will save $1.5 million.

Xbox 360 is Still the Top-Selling Console in the U.S.

Despite a variety of consoles out in the market, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has been the top-selling gaming console in the United States for 14 of the past 15 months, according to Microsoft’s official blog. It trumped two other popular gaming consoles—Nintendo Wii and Sony’s PlayStation 3—to maintain its spot at the top. NPD Group, a New York-based independent market research firm, states that Xbox 360 has sold 308,000 units in August alone, making it the best-selling console in 2011 thus far.

Microsoft’s recent partnerships with Disney and UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) seem to indicate a bright future for the company, saying that a line-up of new titles are slated to be released during the upcoming holiday season. The much-anticipated Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which has a huge number of devoted fans, is expected to hit stores on November 8th.

FBI Taps the Public for Assistance in Capturing Fugitive

The FBI released a statement on Thursday, asking help from the public in finding Donna Joan Borup. Borup is wanted for “allegedly throwing an acidic substance into the eyes of Port Authority Police Officer Evan Goodstein,” said the press release posted by the FBI’s New York Field Office. The incident occurred during an anti-apartheid demonstration at JFK International Airport. The substance caused Officer Goodstein to become partially blind.

Borup was a member of the May 19th Communist Organization at the time of the assault. The May 19 Communist Organization, also known as M19CO, was a Marxist-Leninist group that “advocated the armed revolution and violent overthrow of the United States government,” explained the FBI.

M19CO originally acted as a support group for Weather Underground, a well-known radical group during the 1970s that conducted a string of bombings in the New York City area. The May 19 Communist Organization was active until 1985.
Borup was arrested for the assault and later released on bail pending a trial in May 1982. After Borup failed to appear for trial, an arrest warrant was issued on May 20th, that same year.

The FBI asks those along the East Coast, as it’s believed that Borup has family in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, to keep their eyes peeled and to contact authorities with any information regarding sightings or the case.

Asking for the public’s help is not a new technique, and the most famous example of this type of cooperation between authorities and the public was the recently-cancelled America’s Most Wanted, a television show on the Fox Television Network that displayed fugitives and a hotline for anonymous tips. The difference now is that press releases are automatically posted on the FBI’s Facebook and Twitter pages. People can even get press release updates through email or RSS feed. The ability to re-post information on blogs has also helped expand the social reach of government agencies.

A wanted poster featuring Borup—with both her old photo and one that shows how she might look at her current age—is currently on a billboard in Times Square.

Foreign Student Workers Protest Outside Hershey Plant

On Thursday afternoon, foreign student workers flooded the commercial district of Hershey, Pennsylvania—home of the Hershey Story museum and Hersheypark. The foreign students are in the United States legally through the federal J-1 visa, a summer work program that enables students from foreign universities to come to the United States to work. The idea behind the program is to allow students from around the world to experience life in the United States and to learn more about its culture.

The students who worked in a Hershey Co. packaging and distribution warehouse in Palmyra, however, claim that the wages—around $8.35 an hour, most of which ended up paying off their housing costs—were not enough to repay the $3,000 the students shelled out to participate in the program. Many feel that they were exploited.

The J-1 visa was first administered by the U.S. Information Agency to foster better relations between the United States and other countries. Since its purpose was to offer cultural information to students, the program did not fall under the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Many of the students weren’t informed that they were going to work in a warehouse setting in Pennsylvania, and only found out after they had already arrived in the country. One student said that he had to pay for his trip from Florida—where he was told he had a job waiting for him only to be informed otherwise—to Pennsylvania.

A spokesperson for the Hershey Co. says that the plant is not managed by them, but by a division of German company Deutsche Post DHLA called Exel Logistics. Exel then turned to SHS Onsite Solutions, in Lemoyne, for staffing arrangements. An SHS Onsite spokesperson claimed that they connected with the Council for Educational Travel USA, in California, which recruited at least 370 of the students, and acts as their host. The company is listed as a J-1 sponsor by the U.S. State Department.

The two-day picket rally was organized by the New York-based Guestworker Alliance and even posted videos online containing interviews with the student workers. The students say they just want their money back and for the company to give the jobs to locals who are unemployed. Some of the locals, in turn, have treated them fairly, hoping to give the guests a positive view of American culture. Some commenters in online forums believe that too many American companies are implementing such questionable practices, rather than employing the citizens who live within proximity of these warehouses.

The U.S. State Department stated that it plans to send two senior officials to evaluate the situation.

Low-Income Hispanic Communities in Texas Struggle

According to current reports by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Census Bureau, more than 30 of the 100 communities with the lowest per capita income in the United States are in the state of Texas. Communities such as Sullivan City and La Homa, along with many in South Dakota and North Dakota, have per capita income lower than the national average.

Most of these communites have a small population–Sullivan City is under 5,000 and La Homa is just under 12,000–which contributes to its economic vitality. U.S. Census statistics show that these areas have a predominantly Hispanic population, a group which have lower salary averages than other minority groups. Low income on an individual and household basis affects the whole regional economy. A 2010 report by the U.S. Census indicates that only less than one-fifth of the skilled laborers in the construction trade are composed of Hispanics.

One factor that adds to the problem is the public education system in many of these locales. Studies showing correlations between an individual’s education level and economic opportunities is not new information, and Southwest Economy reports that native-born Hispanics in Texas are more likely to drop out of high school and less likely to attain college education than those living in other states. With the national economy going through a turbulent ride on a daily basis, starting in 2008, job opportunities are becoming harder to find, even in Texas, which during the recession has actually created new jobs while the rest of the nation struggled.

Despite that, economist Pia Orrenius says that the median hourly earnings of Hispanics in Texas have been steady, if not stagnant, rather than declining. Hispanics in other states, however, such as California, earn an average of about $0.80 more than their Texas counterparts due to the higher minimum wage in California.

With the uncertainty facing both national and global economies, those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder are getting hit the hardest. As a heatwave rolls across the Southwest, some of the poorer communities along the Rio Grande Valley are feeling the burn moreso than others due to the drought that are affecting the farms and plantations many of the people work for–a sign, perhaps, of a rough road ahead.

A Cancer Called Corruption

British Prime Minister David Cameron listens to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on May 12, 2016, at Lancaster House in London, U.K., at the outset of the first plenary session of an anti-corruption summit meeting hosted by the British leader. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
British Prime Minister David Cameron listens to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on May 12, 2016, at Lancaster House in London, U.K., at the outset of the first plenary session of an anti-corruption summit meeting hosted by the British leader. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
Its genesis is humble. A cancer cell in its infant stage will not show symptoms. Over time, they divide and multiply, growing exponentially at a rapid rate. They then begin to spread into every millimeter of your body. Carcinogenic elements of society form the same way.

When I was a teenager, I used to pass by a shabby 6-story hotel that was down the street from the Catholic high school I attended. Next to this hotel were a burger stand and a karaoke bar. On any given night, you could find blue-collar men drinking and singing in that small bar. Sitting next to the patrons were young women—the youngest ones looked to be only 18 years old or possibly younger—wearing mini skirts and tight blouses. Every few minutes, the “hostess” would pour beer into their customer’s glass whilst trying their best to laugh at their unfunny jokes.
An hour or so into the playful push-pull socializing, the man would whisper something into the girl’s ear. She would then glance across the room to an old lady, who looked like a motherly innkeeper. That woman was no sweater-knitting granny. She acted as a supervisor to these young hookers. In some instances, she might even be the pimp herself who runs the whole operation.

The management at the hotel, the karaoke bar, and even the tiny burger stand sandwiched between them, were all part of this cash cow complex. How can half a block in the middle of a busy city center operate something like this? The short answer: crooked officials.

They get a piece of the action, whether in monetary terms or by receiving free services, and sometimes both. That’s the nature of corruption. It starts out as a small isolated racket and then it grows to become an entire system. Money feeds corruption, but the dynamics is more complex than that. Money and power is a twin-valve engine of the machinery.

In 2008, corruption came into full view when the meltdown on Wall Street highlighted the connections between the banking system and Washington politics. While particular figures and companies were singled out in the media, such a micro view of the full picture made it difficult to comprehend the scope of it. The issue is beyond any individual and organization—the network itself is a tumor.

In places like the Philippines, Mexico, Pakistan and Russia, a lot of journalists are being silenced by the powerful few who don’t believe that the public has the right to be informed about policies and practices that affect them. If freedom of the press itself is under attack, then what chance do the voiceless have against large conglomerates?

Cancer has a treatment. It’s not totally effective and risks are still there, but it’s available. Likewise, corruption can be fought. In this era of social media, anyone who cares about freedom and democracy ought to be more proactive in speaking out against corrupt practices. Activism can only go so far though. Beyond the words, there needs to be more participation in local government and on a national level.

The prescription for battling corruption is as simple as asking the right questions and never letting others silence you. In fact, you can start with a simple question: “How can we change this?”