Friday, 11 November 2011

11/11/11

We may not like the wars our governments have thrown us into. We may think that it is a waste of blood and treasure to be fighting in some god-forsaken mess half way round the world. I can sympathise with those who say it, I am not a military man, I do not idolise soldiers as heroes to the core. They are brave men doing an often nasty job. The wars we are in now are not wars of necessity, we are not under threat of invasion or death from an enemy in the clouds; but today, on the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of this new century we must stand and be counted. For everyone of us alive today owes our freedom to millions of un-named men and women through the centuries. They have often died, in pain, alone and scared or in the line marching on an enemy, so that we may live free and never know the horror that war can bring. Whatever our feelings today it is time to remember them, they gave up peace and often life for us, people they would never know.

We Will Remember Them

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Why Do We Ignore Restorative Justice in the UK?

Today the British Prime Minister was quizzed on his responses to the August Riots. While it is clear that previous convictions or dealings with the police did stop a select few from joining the looting and destruction one fact made me pay attention - an overwhelming majority of those caught by the police had previous convictions or cautions. As several Ministers pointed out, and I agree, these individuals had been alienated from the community they live in and by following the path of retributive justice had been removed (in the case of those who had served time) from society as a whole. As this is the case why is it that the government and the country as a whole believed that retributive justice, fining, imprisonment etc, was the best solution to deal with the post-riot arrests.
Restorative justice is an idea where-by wrong-doers are forced to apologise to the individual or group they wronged and earn their way back into society. It has been implemented in many areas of the world, including post-conflict and post-genocide countries with a large amount of success. Instead of removing a person from society and locking them up with a lot of other bad people, why not make them part of the society they felt alienated from? By giving them community projects and by allowing them to feel accepted by those around them it removes the antipathy which can lead to the forms of mass violence that was seen in the summer riots. If it can reintegrate those who participated in genocide and mass killing I think it is a reasonable conclusion to draw that it can help disaffected petty crooks in the UK.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Israel refuses to accept anything outside of its blinkered view of exclusive knowledge

Yesterday, two boats, one Irish, one Canadian were captured by the Israeli navy and towed to an Israeli port. There crews from 9 different countries including some accredited journalists were help without charge, because really there is no charge. These two small boats were trying to breech the blockade that Israel has placed around Gaza. While I agree with the Israeli government that this was a stunt designed to raise awareness of the issue I disagree entirely with the scathing way they said it. This blockade is in place in contravention with international law and only remains through technicalities and the support of powerful friends. Freedom Waves as this latest attempt to breech the blockade has been called, is a brave and skilled attempt to demonstrate this illegality to the world once again in the hope that someonee will finally listen. I also take issue with the methods employed by the Israeli military in detaining these foreign nationals. According to the twitter accounts of the Canadian boat (@CanadaBoatGaza ), a biased account I accept, said soon after the taking of the ships, that water cannons, beatings and tasers were used in the detention of the crew. It also shared a message from the Irish boat, 'Kidnapped, being held against our will. Boat nearly destroyed by Israeli army..'
Whatever the truth of both sides I find these actions by a so-called democratic state reprehensible and degrading when I consider the relationship my own country shares with it. Israel should respect the rights accorded to all people and especially to the rights of foreign nationals. You are not a law unto yourselves and eventually our governments will realise the damage knowing you does them and then we shall see what happens...

Monday, 8 August 2011

Has the UN failed in its mandate to protect?

In Syria the government has begun a war against its own population. Machine guns, artillery, assault rifles, grenades and bombing have all been used against men, women and children whose only crime has been to protest for peace and better governance. Huge courage has been shown by people facing armed gangs of Syrian army and secret police pushing into their towns.
These people have not taken up arms in the same way as Libya, they often face armed forces with stones and homemade Molotov cocktails. Hundreds have died at the hands of the Syrian state apparatus.
After weeks of debate, the UN released a statement on the 3rd of August (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14396703). By this point upwards of 1600 civilians had died. The statement began with the lines:
'The Security Council expresses its grave concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria, and expresses profound regret at the death of many hundreds of people.'
I'm sure the people of Deir al-Zour would feel safe from abuse and death now that the UNSC has expressed its grave concern on the subject. On the 7th a column of tanks rolled into this small town and killed over 50 in a pre-dawn raid.
I'm sure the families of the hundreds dead feel less grief now that the UN has given them its profound regret.

The case of Syria does show the problems afflicting the UNSC in the new post-Cold War, post-9/11 world. The combination of imperial overstretch for the US, UK and France and a dislike of any detraction of sovereignty by China and Russia leads to a complete inability to do anything productive in cases which are less than full-on state warfare. Syria is such a complex case that the big lumbering edifice of UNSC decision making is like using a chainsaw to attempt laproscopic surgery.

This is not to say that the UN is flawed. Many arms of this great organisation have performed wonders and, indeed, the UNSC has had its successes in the past. What needs examination is its responses to intra-state warfare and protest. Its focus on the preservation on sovereignty means that many abuses and often obvious crimes against humanity cannot be tackled fully and this leads to an inadequate response using what legislation can be employed (or simply relying on other agencies or part s of the UN). This is often poorly planned and executed and is like using a plaster on a bullet wound.

Friday, 3 June 2011

BLOG 4 GIRLS: The effects of cultural attitudes on girls education

An old African Proverb states that 'if we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family - and a whole nation.'

However, this message doesn't seem to have made much of an impact in many areas of the world. Central Africa is a good example with the poor status of women, a general patriarchal dominance and the continuation of young and often forced marriage many girls do not make it past Primary education.
Indeed it is often marriage that ends a girl’s chance of education. In the poorest countries in the world 1 in 7 girls are married before their 15th birthday. This is a truly global issue with 64 million women aged 20-24 saying that they were married before they were 18. Many of these marriages will have been chosen for them by their family (especially the male members) and may be to someone she does not even know. Abductions for marriage are also common in some countries. In Ethiopia for example, girls as young as 8 are taken for marriage. Not only is this a gross disregard for the girls feelings it is also hugely detrimental to their future and that of the nation as a whole. By removing women's ability to go on to Secondary and Higher education it effectively removes half the intelligence of the nation from being fully utilised. 
In many cultures, girls are seen as, if not the secondary sex, then one that has extremely specific value and roles. As the culturally implied breadwinner, male education is often perceived as important and therefore paying for further education is a precursor to better employment. For girls, whose cultural role is perceived as maternal, education is of far lower importance. Girls are often kept at home to prepare food and look after siblings. As they grow older they become valuable as marriage tools to be used for familial or political gain. Even when not married young, girls education is not valued as marriage is seen as inevitable and therefore education is a waste of money. This gendered system is then socialised both at home and during early education creating a gendered cycle, which is incredibly difficult to break out of.
Attitudes within the family are not the only cultural problem facing female education. In schools, teachers often reinforce sexual stereotypes and cultural norms in what they teach. A lack of female sanitation and help for older girls during their development also hinder further study. Often girls face sexism from both teachers and male pupils and even worse face sexual harassment and abuse from both. In the worst cases this can even mean swapping sex for grades. This flagrant and horrific abuse by those with a duty of care obviously has the worst effect on girl’s education. The abuse faced by girls in many secondary schools leads to poor performance and a high drop out rate. Problems are exacerbated by a lack of female teachers and role models leaving girls feeling isolated and alone.
            Child labour is also a prevalent problem and one of the most common affecting girls education. Often primary school-age girls are working as many hours as an adult and also far longer than boys. They also start work earlier and such a workload is impossible to sustain while perusing a successful educational career. 
            While access to Primary education is widening for girls, with up to 70%+ attending, it is clear that a great number of huge and often degrading cultural barriers stop girls from going on to achieve their full potential.
See more at: http://www.plan-uk.org/what-we-do/campaigns/because-i-am-a-girl/ 

Sunday, 22 May 2011

US imperialism or opportunism?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/13478318

Several weeks ago US Navy SEAL Team 6 flew into Pakistani airspace, landed on Pakistani soil and conducted a targeted assasination without consultation with their so-called 'ally'.
This is not to say that the death of Osama bin Laden is a bad thing or that it should not of happened, however a certain question must be asked of America's action in this case especially following President Obama's announcement that he would sanction further unilateral actions in Pakistan to target Al Qaeda leaders.
In such a case surely the sovereign rights of Pakistan to retain control of its borders and look to its own national security are vialated by US unilateral missions within said borders?
While it is of course in Pakistan's interest for Osama bin Laden to be captured or killed, by acting unilaterally and with so little care for its allies feelings or sovereignty, the actions of the US can and will be seen as showing imperialist or hegemonic tendencies.
Indeed, if it is not a trite comparison, it shows similar disregard as the invaision of Iraq did in 2003 in which the US (without UN backing though with allied support) violated the legal sovereign rights of the Iraqi nation. Again this is not to say that the invaision and removal of the Baathist government was not a good thing, this post is simply to point out a woorying trend in American foreign policy. The use of invaision, regime change, extraordinary rendition, occupation and now assasination by the US government seems to demonstrate a hegemonic belief not seen since the fall of the Great Powers half a century earlier.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Japan Quake moved Earth on its Axis and moved the island by 8 Feet

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/12/japan.earthquake.tsunami.earth/index.html?hpt=T1#
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12726297

As many of you will know, several days ago a massive earthquake struck off the coast of Japan sending a huge tsunami across the islands. The extent of the damage is huge with tens of thousands still missing and an unfolding humanitarian disaster as Japan struggles to cope with the homeless and hungry.
At the same time the quake damaged the nuclear plants at Fukushima, where a huge explosion yesterday may have set of a sub critical meltdown in one of the reactors.
Explosion at Fukushima power station
New data from GPS and GSI also seems to indicate that the huge Earthquake did more than just devistate the Japanese mainland. It appears that it was so big it moved the islands of Japan by up to 8 feet. The earhquake, caused by the shifing of the 'ring of fire' techtonic plates by more than 18m in an area 250 miles by 100 miles, may also have shifted the globe on its axis by nearly 4 inches.
Images released by NASA show Japan's northeast coast before, left, and after flooding from the quake-induced tsunami.

Sudan - through the eyes of some Welsh students

At aberystwyth university we run a Crisis Simulation every semester in which around 50 students travel to a stately home/hotel called Gregynog near Newtown and attempt to solve an international 'crisis' in three days. This semesters sim was on the breakdown of Sudanese relations after the cancellation of the pivital referendum in the Abeyei Region. I, along with three others was a member of the UN team. You learn a lot in these crisis sims and i thought i'd put a few lessons on here:
  • Dealing with terrorist organisations is not necessarily a bad thing (we had very good contact with the Darfur Rebel Groups and almost brought down the Chinese government)
  • If you need to get something done don't ask the UN Security Council (the US and China disliked each other so nothing ever got done)
  • If you want diplomacy never ask the OTC (We had a few members of the Officer Training Corps and they REALLY wanted a war)
  • The Gods (the team of lecturers running it) will agree to anything on the third day (we declared war on France because it sold arms and started WWIII. Oh, and the Dalai Lahma became head of the UN)
  • Ideas in the bar don't generally plan out (we generally spend most evenings getting a bit tipsy in the bar and some 'amazing' idea normally comes up to be shot down the very next morning)
  • The South Sudanese are far too easy going (they solved the crisis a day early by ageeing to all the Bashir Governments demands)
  • The Gods will get bored and attempt to start a war (they gave tanks and AA guns to the Darfur Rebels and created a four-helicopter 'Black Hawk Down' for the US in the middle of Kartoum)

Friday, 4 March 2011

Wales backs a 'Yes' referendum

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-12648649

Wales has voted Yes in the referendum to give law making powers to the welsh assembly government.
'When the last result was declared, all 22 counties except one - Monmouthshire - backed change. Turnout is provisionally put at 35%.
The final result saw 517,132 vote Yes, and 297,380 say No - a 63.5% to 36.5% winning margin'

However, while Yes campaigners celebrate, members form the No campaign have certain criticisms:
  • They see the low turnout as worrying and not really a true representation of the people of Wales
  • They argue there is no coherent plan towards devolution rather policy changes such as this referendum seem to be random
  • because of this they see the move towards devolution as the federalising or even disintegration of the UK as a whole
However, today marks an important change in UK, and especially Welsh, politics whatever your vote may have been.

ZOMBIE FUNGUS AHHHHHHHHHHH

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/02/zombie-creating-fungi-cordyceps_n_830558.html

4 new forms o the so-called zombie fungus have been discovered in Brazil where they infect ants and make them do strange things!

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/miroslav-volf/god-versus-allah_b_829955.html

Very interesting and no-nonsense article from one someone who really knows their stuff. It draws upon historical and modern examples to argue that while each faith has a slightly different interpretation of God they essentially believe in the same being.

Libya captures dutch crew

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12645675

Libyan army has captured a Dutch Lynx helicopter and crew who attempted to fly out two Europeans because it entered Libyan airspace 'in breach of international law.' It was taken outside the town of Sirte (one of col. gadaffi's last remaining strogholds as the Dutch, represented by the pirate hunter 'Tromp' are doing everything to get them back.

Latest Libya update: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12644435

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Tractor Beam technology reaches new levels

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12620560

This is quite cool though not up to Star Wars levels yet :P

BskyB takeover

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12631875

BskyB have accepted the offer of Murdoch's News Corp for the news giant to buy out the remaining 61% of Sky on the condition that Sky News becomes a spin off company in its own right with an independent chairman and majority of the board. However opposition groups including rival news firms argue that this takeover puts too much media control in the hands of one group.
This takeover does raise interesting questions about the control of what we see as 'free' media. Murdoch's empire already includes the Sun, the Telegraph, the Times and the Financial Times;
Is this too much influence for one organisation?
Indeed does it affect the news we read and see on TV?
Can any news be objective if it all comes from a single source?
At least would this not allow a variety in angles and focus?
But then does the size and control of the BBC necessitate the same questions?

Monday, 28 February 2011

Zawiyah: 30 miles from Tripoli, the city on the frontline of Libya's revolt

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/27/libya-30-miles-from-tripoli?CMP=NECNETTXT1349

A nice little peice which aptly captures the stalemate at present in Lybia :)

Libya protests: Gaddafi says 'all my people love me'

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12603259

The man is a complete fruitcake!
'Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has told the BBC he is loved by all his people and has denied there have been any protests in Tripoli'
'Col Gaddafi said that his people would die to protect him. He laughed at the suggestion he would leave Libya and said he felt betrayed by leaders who had urged him to quit.'
'Col Gaddafi accused Western countries of abandoning Libya and said that they had no morals and wanted to colonise the country'
'Col Gaddafi said true Libyans had not demonstrated but those who had come on to the streets were under the influence of drugs supplied by al-Qaeda'

The New Rules: America Need Not Fear Connectivity Revolutions

http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/8022/the-new-rules-america-need-not-fear-connectivity-revolutions

A very interesting article from the World Politics Reveiw
Argues that while globalisation (for example over the internet) is not neccessarily democratising the Middle Easts '2.0 Revolutions' are examples of how it can be. While globalisation can cause a great deal of upheavel (simply because it promotes a huge range of choive inherently unavailable in authoritarian or traditional societies)the reaction of each society is different. Each strand of connectivity that globalisation imparts increases the need of the younger more ambitious generation to put improvement above social stability. Therefore, in terms of Islamic states, the most successful are those who are able to grow and develop flourashing middle classes (Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia). Closing with these thought provoking paragraphs:

'How those countries traversed Bremmer's J-curve while tolerating the Web's growing penetration constitutes the real model for successfully exiting the current unrest. Iran has no such model to offer, nor do the Saudis or al-Qaida. They can only "win" where societies remain largely or completely disconnected from globalization's embrace.

And that tells you everything you need to know about the long war against violent extremism and why America, despite its status quo-protecting instincts, should cheer on these 2.0 Revolutions.'

Including examples from the authors own life it is highly accessable and interesting.

Libya's rebel army

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/01/world/africa/01unrest.html?_r=2

I love parts of this article on the Libyan rebels:
' defecting officers in the east of the vast, desert nation took steps to establish a unified command while their followers in the rebel-held city of Zawiyah, just outside the leader’s stronghold in the capital, displayed tanks, Kalashnikovs and antiaircraft guns.'
So many army units and police have defected the fight for Libya now looks like a success for the Libyan rebels as:
'a global effort to isolate Colonel Qaddafi and possibly force his resignation gained momentum over the weekend, with the United Nations Security Council moving to impose punitive financial sanctions and NATO allies discussing steps that included a possible no-fly zone over Libya'
'a day of increasing self-confidence among the rebels, who spoke of tapping revenue from the vast Libyan oil resources now under their control — estimated by some oil company officials to be about 80 percent of the country’s total. And in recognition of the insurrection’s growing power, Italy’s foreign minister on Sunday suspended a nonaggression treaty with Libya on the grounds that the Libyan state “no longer exists,” while Secretary of State Clinton said the United States was reaching out to the rebels to “offer any kind of assistance.”'
It seems that Gaddafi has no where to run and no where to hide. Surely this leaves him with only one remaining choice - to step down.
However this raises the issue of the violent protests as they are the first in the run of revolutions in the region. Is this the start of a new violent wave of protest, esecially if the Libyan rebels succeed?

Introduction

So as this is the first post I probably should be explaining everything...
  • My names Sam
  • I'm a 19 year old student
  • I study International Politics at Aberystwyth University, Wales
  • This blog is a bit of fun I thought I'd set up about The World And That Sort Of Thing instrad of doing some probably quite important work
  • Basically its my little input about the world, politics and life in general (which sounds really up my self I know)
  • From the situation in the Middle East to last nights TV and probably a few moans about my life in between
Anyway welcome to The World And That Sort Of Thing. Maybe you'll find something interesting/funny/idiotic, I hope so
Sam