The Worlds Greatest Rivalry: India and Pakistan

A Pakistani man wounded in a suicide bomb attack receives first aid at a hospital near Lahore on Sunday, November 2.  PHOTO CNN

A Pakistani man wounded in a suicide bomb attack receives first aid at a hospital near Lahore on Sunday, November 2.

This week on the India-Pakistan border a suicide bomber took the lives of 60 people and injured over 100. The Pakistan-based militant group named Jundallah took credit for the attack.

Since the birth of these two countries there has been a high level of tensions in the area. India was established as a secular, but mostly Hindu state, while Pakistan was established as an Islamic state. According to the Asia Society, the division of this country caused the biggest human migration in history with “about 17 million people fleeing their homes and journeying to either Pakistan or India.”

Throughout the years there have been numerous wars between India and Pakistan. All the wars come back to the same thing, a border dispute. Pakistan feels that the Indian region of Kashmiri is rightfully theirs because of the high Muslim population. They feel Kashmiri should have because part of Pakistan in 1947 when it because its own country. According to USA Today, “India does not want to give the region up in part because the loss of Kashmir might embolden other restive Indian regions and the nation’s 120 million Muslims to seek independence”.

Over the last few weeks relations between India and its historic rival Pakistan have greatly deteriorated. It started when India canceled a meeting between the countries’ Foreign Secretaries. Since then shots have been fired back and forth across the borders. Things really escalated on November 2nd when a suicide bomber attacked a parade on the Indian- Pakistan border. According to Global Voices, ” the blast did target Pakistanis supporting their country at the Wagah border, some believe that it also sent a message to India in regards to their border security: these militant groups have the ability to attack the country right at their doorstep”.

There is a lot of tension and conflict coming from this area in Asia and the Middle East. It seems like every time we turn on the news we hear about more and more terrorists attacks, and suicide bombings are becoming a more popular choice for terrorists. It feels like such a growing problem. The terrorism and fighting between India and Pakistan needs to be talked about and resolved. Too many people have fought and died since the beginning of this conflict in 1947.

If you want a different perspective on suicide bombing check out the movie Paradise Now. Lave me a comment!


Rock the Vote

One of the greatest travesties in America to this day is voter apathy.

The United States is one of the greatest nations in history, and the longest standing democracy. We are giving such great freedoms and in return act like it’s no big deal. According to the U.S Census Bureau : Voting and Registration only 64% of registered Americans voted in 2012, the year of a presidential election. In 2010, a midterm congressional election year, only 58% of registered Americans showed up to vote.

Why do they give all this freedom if only half of the country is going to exercise it? When you vote, you vote for the leader of this country. You vote for the people who handle your taxes and regulate business. You vote for the people who have the power to change your everyday lives.

Reasons why you should vote from dosomething.org

  • If you don’t exercise the right to vote, you’ll be a hypocrite when you complain about politics
  • Whether you’re from the The Rent is too D@#^ High Party or the Tea Party you live in a country where every voice can be heard. Exercise your right.
  • Politicians decide our financial future – how much government support we’ll get for college tuition, how many jobs will be available, and who will pay more taxes.
  • Only 30% of voters will go to the polls today. If you go, that will make you cooler than 2/3 of the population.
  • When guys turn 18, they have to register for the draft. If you’re expected to defend your country, you should have a say about how it is run.
  • There are worse ways to spend 10 minutes

Tuesday, November 4, 2014 is election day for midterm elections! The one day every two years that you have the freedom to let the country hear what you want. I challenge you to take the time out of your day to vote for what you believe in because despite what other people say one vote can change the world.

Gun Problem or Health Problem?

Over the past few years it seems like gun violence in schools has exploded. Every time you turn on the news you hear about things like Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook. Gun violence extends even beyond schools. It seems like there has been in increase in mall shootings, movie theater shootings, and gun violence in general, but what has prompted this sudden increase in public shootings? What has changed?

The truth is according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Firearm-related homicides declined 39%, from 18,253 in 1993 to 11,101 in 2011.” If the number of gun related homicides are going down then why does it feel like we’re hearing about more of them? The answer is the media.

The public is constantly bombarded with 24/7 information. News stories are no longer about the quality research of a topic. It seems they are more interested with the unresearched, half truths that give them large quantities of stories. When something happens you almost immediately see it on the news whether they have the full story or not. The public gets little versions of the story as it’s happening until the full story breaks, making the truth all the more confusing. Because the news is a 24/7 broadcast the media has the time to cover more events. They need interesting and controversial things to keep the viewers entertained. The media takes the negative perspective on the topic leading to fear when they talk solely about the shooter and crime committed, rather than focus on the apprehenders and people that stopped the shooter.

One thing the media can show the public is the amount of mental instability in the majority of mass shooters. Look at the amount of shooters that kill themselves in the process:

  • Colombine
  • Aurora movie theater shooting
  • Sandy Hook
  • This week’s Washington school

They all have one thing in common: Mental illness. If the government spent more time funding the mental health crisis in this country rather than trying to put a bandaid on it with gun control the people might see an even bigger improvement with mass murderers. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, “States have cut more than $1.6 billion in general funds from their state mental health agency budgets for mental health services since 2009.” The longer then mentally ill aren’t taken care of the more tragedy we are likely to see.

This week alone the media has reported on two shootings: one at a Washington high school and another at the Canadian capitol. Both are tragic stories filled with immense loss. I have heard more and more facts about these stories every day since the story first broke. The media brings fifteen minutes of fame to everyone involved with the shooting. It makes the shooters and the victims celebrities. This could potentially be a big problem for mentally ill people who don’t feel noticed in life. The people of this country need to start noticing the big picture. More people aren’t killing with more guns, more sick people are crying out for help.

What’s Cooking in the Hot Zone: EBOLA

A health worker in protective clothing holds a child suspected of having Ebola in the Paynesville treatment center on October 5. Photo from CNN

A health worker in protective clothing holds a child suspected of having Ebola in the Paynesville treatment center on October 5.
Photo from CNN

The deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history began with just a handful of cases in Guinea in March.

The Ebola virus first appeared in 1976 in Nzara, Sudan and Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The disease is thought to have come from certain bats living in tropical African forests. According to the Word Health Organization, “Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelopes and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.” Ebola has an incubation period of two to 21 days after infection.

Early symptoms of Ebola are:

  • sudden onset of fever
  • fatigue
  • muscle pain
  • headache
  • sore throat

After Ebola sets in, the early symptoms are followed by diarrhoea, a rash and bleeding – both internal and external, which can be seen in the gums, eyes, nose and stool.

Ebola has the whole world trembling with this most recent outbreak. According to CNN, Ebola is one of the world’s most deadliest diseases. “It is a highly infectious virus that can kill up to 90% of the people who contract it, causing terror among infected communities. The death rate in this outbreak has dropped to roughly 55% because of early treatment.” It has people in such fear because there is no vaccine against it.

Since the outbreak began in March, 729 people of the 1,323 total confirmed infections have died, reports WHO as of July 27. This is the deadliest outbreak in history because the virus is spreading in heavily-populated urban areas, as opposed to rural areas. It is also spreading rapidly. It has spread to neighboring countries Sierra Leone and Liberia making it harder to contain as it spreads. We have also seen cases spread as far as Europe and the United States. According to BBC, “There have been more cases and deaths in this one than all other outbreaks combined.”

Ebola is killing people and destroying lives more rapidly than every before. World organizations are having trouble containing the disease. Pharmaceutical companies are working with experimental drugs, trying to halt the outbreak. However, some people who have received the experimental drugs have still died. Although some who have been administered the drugs survived, we still do not have a concrete solution to this world problem. We need to continue searching for a cure, and the United States needs to spearhead the global humanitarian coalition that will relieve this crisis.

Overall, people shouldn’t be worried about Ebola running rampant through the United States. We have top-koch medical care and the resources to manage this outbreak. We should be more concerned with the well-being of the people really suffering from this effects of this disease in Africa. We should be concerned from a humanitarian stand point. You probably won’t get Ebola, but there is still someone that will.

Government Gone Wrong in Hong Kong

Riot police use pepper spray as they clash with protesters outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on Tuesday, September 28. Photo from CNN

Riot police use pepper spray as they clash with protesters outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on Tuesday, September 28.
Photo from CNN

Things have heated up in Hong Kong since a wave of protesters blocked major highways in several key districts of the city, and are calling the movement Occupy Central.

This all stared in 1997 when the British gave back Hong Kong to China after 150 years of ruling it. It was initially agreed to let Hong Kong have a semi-autonomous government for 50 years under One Country, Two Systems (established in the 1980s). This agreement meant that, when rejoined with China, Hong Kong and a few other areas will be allowed to have their own capitalist economies and political system, except for defense and foreign affairs, while the rest of China will use the socialist system.

The students of Hong Kong are outraged by Beijing’s new position on electoral change in the city. The people of Hong Kong were promised that for the first time, they would be allowed to elect their own leader in a democratic election, instead of the leader being selected by a committee from Beijing. According to New York Magazine, “earlier this summer, China decided a committee was still necessary, and it would select the candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 elections.”

The protest started as what BBC calls “peaceful sit-ins to demand democracy” on September 22. There are thousands of demonstrators spread from Hong Kong’s financial district to outside the city’s government offices in Admiralty. Things were taken to the next level last Sunday when riot police used excessive force against unarmed students peacefully protesting on the government headquarters. The excessive force used by police did the exact opposite of what Beijing hoped for. The number of protestors has swelled because now people are not only outraged at the lack of democracy, but also how the government is abusing peaceful protestors with tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. Now, the people are not only demanding democracy, but also the resignation of the current chief executive, C.Y. Leung.

It’s been almost two weeks since the protest first began. According to CNN, “the Hong Kong Federation of Students said at a press conference it had met with three representatives of the government to try to pave the way for future talks with Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary Carrie Lam.” The two sides didn’t come to an agreement, but they agreed to keep talking. The students have three conditions for the continuations of the talks:

  • the dialogue must be ongoing
  • the student leaders must be treated as equals
  • real political change must emerge from the talks

Now, the Chinese government has declared these demonstrations illegal. The scariest part of this whole ordeal is that the government of China has restricted the flow of information about the protests to the rest of China. People in China don’t know what’s going on. The Chinese government has a deep-seeded fear of rebellion, so it takes control and covers it up. This is history repeating itself; it reflects the protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989. History is going to continue to repeat itself until the Chinese government is replaced with one that is less oppressive and violent towards its own people.

What About the Gaza Strip?

Palestinians stand next to the rubble of a destroyed building following an Israeli air strike in Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 12, 2014. Photo by AFP

After a summer of intense conflict and constant news coverage, the world seems to have too soon forgotten the devastation that war caused in the Gaza Strip.

Over the summer, the Gaza Strip was plagued with conflict between the Palestinian organization HAMAS and the Israeli state. After two years of relative peacefulness conflict erupted because of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers while hiking in the West Bank. Israel blamed HAMAS and HAMAS denied it, but on the day the bodies were found rockets were launched from Gaza at Israel and Israel started air strikes on Gaza. In retaliation to the murder of the three Israelis, a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and burned to death. After that the conflict just seemed to escalate. There were 11 ceasefires arranged throughout the summer, but none seemed to last more that a few days until the ceasefire brokered by Egypt in late August. According the the Jerusalem Post they will continue negotiating the ceasefire agreement in the first week of October.

After the 50-day conflict the Gaza Strip was left in ruins. According the BBC more than 100,000 people were left homeless, 2,133 Palestinians were killed, and 1,489 are believed to have been civilians. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and seven civilians were killed.

This past month Fatah and Hamas gave power in the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority and a deal has been agreed by Israeli and Palestinian officials to allow building materials into the Gaza Strip for reconstruction. That’s a whole lot of change coming their way. Before anyone starts rebuilding in Gaza they need to take a second and think about a few things:

  • How long will this ceasefire last?
  • Are they going to be wasting money rebuilding things to be destroyed again?
  • Is this problem fixable?

The cycle of war has been going on between Palestine and Israel for far too long. The people need to be focusing on a long term solution for their conflict before anything can be rebuilt, or home and schools will be pointlessly rebuilt just to be destroyed by the same conflict that has plagued this land for years. Something has to give because it is the Palestinian people that will get the brute of this conflict with the continuation of mass civilian causality.

Scotland: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Over the past few months there has been talk of Scotland’s vote for independence. This past week the people of Scotland finally had their voices heard in their historic vote. Scotland chose to remain part of the United Kingdom in a close vote of 55% no and 45% yes with a record voter turnout of 84 percent. Now that the people have been heard what is next for Scotland and what have they given up?

Alex Salmond is the head of the SNP and the First Minister of Scotland. It has been the Scottish National Party that has been pushing for Scotland’s independence from the UK. In 2011 the Scottish National Party won the majority in the Scottish Parliament election, and Salmond was reelected as the First Minister. Salmond didn’t put forth the referendum bill for independence in his first term because he didn’t have enough votes, but the 2011 election result made the independence referendum a certainty.

There has been such a push for Scotland’s independence by the SNP because they feel unfairly represented by the conservative party in the UK’s Parliament. According to PBS only one of the 50 members of that Parliament representing Scotland belong to the Conservative party. The rest are from the Labour party, the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrat party. From an economic stand point, many people even outside the SNP believe that Scotland could be one of the wealthiest countries in the world because of the offshore oil resources.

The other side of the coin is the Better Together Campaign to promote political stability and the future of economic stability with Scotland. According to USA Today the pro-unity advocates said that being part of the United Kingdom gives Scotland a bigger say in world affairs through major alliances such as the European Union and NATO. They argued that Scotland isn’t guaranteed economic security, and they might lose use of their monetary system the pound.

Luckily, the Scottish people voted a “no” to independence, so the world won’t have to worry about the economic fate of Scotland. The world will look forward see Scotland receiving more political power out of this deal. The prime minister, David Cameron, promised Scotland the Devo Max package devolving further powers over tax, spending and welfare to the Scottish Parliament.

Let me know what you think. Did Scotland make the right choice? Leave a comment or question.

Update on ISIS

In the last week President Obama addressed the nation and gave a four-point updated plan on how the government is going to handle The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS). His plan in a nutshell is to:

  • Increase Airstrikes
  • Send troops and supplies to Iraq
  • Take proactive steps to prevent future attacks
  • Provide humanitarian aid to civilians

Obama has promised to take the airstrikes to the next level. Our military is now going to be striking ISIS with the intent of driving them back. He also said we will hunt terrorists wherever they go, mentioning Syria. Obama plans to send 475 more service members to Iraq, but not for a combative mission. He is sending troops to help the Kurdish and Iraqi forces by training them and providing technology. Obama put a significant emphasis on protecting the homeland and the American people, but how much are we really on the offensive? We have been executing airstrikes for some time now, and we already have service men and women on the ground in Iraq. If ISIS is as big of a threat as everyone has been saying, then why aren’t we hitting them with more aggression? We should be putting boots on the ground and going to them before they come to us. Since President Obama’s speech, ISIS has beheaded a third captive journalist, David Haines. ISIS has started threatening our allies. This situation has definitely turned into a kill or be killed scenario. They have already demonstrated how brutal and gruesome they can be from afar. I hope to see Obama nip this in the bud before it comes to our doorstep and we experience their brutality first-hand.

Crisis in Crimea

Destruction in the streets of Kiev. Picture from Newsweek

Over the last few months the United States has gotten involved in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. There have been sanctions put on Russia by the European Union and the US. According to the New York Times, in March 2014 congress approved for $1 billion in aid to be sent over to Ukraine. The United States has been proactive in the protection of Ukraine, but what is really going on and why is it so important?  

Back in the day, Ukraine was a Soviet satellite state. It became known as an independent nation in 1991, and since then has been ruled as a constitutional republic. Over the years Ukraine has been asked to join the European Union. The European Union is a partnership with 28 countries that work together to make laws and share the same monetary system. There has been a loud cry of opposition in eastern Ukraine about joining the EU and having the west expand to Ukraine. 

In February 2014 Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was forced out of power by the Ukrainian parliament. The president, Vladimir Putin saw this as a threat to Russian speaking people in Ukraine, having anti-Russian people in power. Crimea has come into play in the last few months because of the Russian military occupation. Crimea is located in eastern Ukraine and has a population of 60 percent Russian. 

Some people in Crimea see themselves as Russians and think they should be apart of Russia. Russia thinks they have a claim to Crimea because of all the Russian speaking people. That’s where the conflict comes in. Do the people of Crimea really want to be part of Russia or are they being bullied by their looming neighbors to say so?

The fact of the matter is that people dying in eastern Europe. The Russian supporting rebels are fighting the Ukrainian military for control. We are seeing careless casualties like the Malaysia Airlines flight that was mistaken for a Ukrainian plane that killed all 295 people aboard the plane.

The big picture points to Russia and its issues. Putin doesn’t want to see the West expanding to Russia’s former territory. According to CNN lawmakers believe that Putin wants to control Ukraine in an attempt to reestablish a new version of the former Soviet Union, which may be an even bigger international problem. 

As an American I care what kind of conflicts our government gets into. It’s important to pay attention to what’s going on in Ukraine and Russia for a lot of reasons:

  • It affects the trade we do with different countries. (We have sanctions on Russia at the moment)
  • It affects government spending. (We spent $1 billion on aid)
  • It affects international relations. (Russia isn’t our biggest fan)

More importantly we’ve always been told that history repeats itself. We need to pay attention to this kind of conflict because we could be faced with a similar situation in the future. We need to know what works and what doesn’t. It’s going to be the people of my generation who will have the power to make or break this country in the near future. I share my knowledge as a political science student in hopes that it inspires someone to want to know what’s going on because the bloodshed going on in Ukraine is for real.