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  • Monday, July 06, 2020 6:00 AM | Anonymous

    By Abrita Kuthumi

    Image credit: The Jakarta Post/Dhoni Setiawan

    The death of George Floyd brought momentum to the Black Lives Matter movement through protests in not only America but all around the world-- in France, Malta, Ghana, South Korea, China, and more. For some nations, such as Indonesia, the discussions on racism hit closer to home because the Indonesian society has been facing their own challenges on social discrimination with the dark-skinned, Melanesian origin indigenous group known as Papuans. As the Black Lives Matter movement spread globally, it influenced the rise in support for another movement in Indonesia that is being referred to as Papuan Lives Matter.

    Between the two social movements, there are major differences given the history, geographic context, and experiences. In the United States, African Americans played an instrumental role towards the foundation of a nation which was built on slavery. Despite abolishing slavery during the 19th century, discrimination continued in every sector that oppressed Black people, including but not limited to unaffordable housing, higher rates of imprisonment, police brutality due to racial profiling, and more. The goal of the Black Lives Matter movement is to eliminate these generational injustices that have followed to the present. 

    In the archipelago of Indonesia, Papuans were already inhabiting the islands of Papua and West Papua prior to Indonesian independence from Netherlands in 1949. The Dutch initially sought to have Papua become a separate country but the Indonesian government held a referendum with 1,000 Papuan people who decided to become one under the Act of Free Choice. This act has been called out for its irony given how its “free choice” title does not align with the process in which they were handpicked. Since then, Papuans have faced episodes of racial discrimination, such as the usage of racial slurs from the police which compare the people of Papua as “monkeys” against West Papuan students in 2019. The lack of economic resources in a land rich of natural resources is another major issue. While this does not apply to all, some of the Papuans seek independence from Indonesia. Although different narratives, the two movements share the act of speaking out against the social and economic disadvantages faced due to racial discrimination within each society. 

    If Papua gains its independence, then Indonesia most likely loses its mining deposits. Therefore, the government of Indonesia has been active in quelling any protests that may concern the separatist movement. In 2019, 56 peaceful West Papuan activists who were protesting against racism in Jayapura, Papua were arrested and charged with treason under articles 106 and 110 of the Indonesia criminal code, which respectively states, “the attempt undertaken with intent to bring the territory of the state wholly or partially under foreign domination or to separate part thereof shall be punished by life imprisonment or a maximum imprisonment of twenty years” and “the conspiracy to one of the crimes described in Articles 104-108 shall be punished by a maximum imprisonment of six years.” Despite demands of releasing the Papuan activists and criticisms for restricting freedom of speech and assembly, the Balikpapan District Court in East Kalimantan proceeded with a sentence of 10-11 months in jail. 

    This scene of oppression is nothing new yet the level of awareness within the local community that considers the issue of racism with Papuans to be low. However, given how people in Indonesia have supported the Black Lives Matter abroad but have been showing a lukewarm response to the racism within its own boundaries, Indonesian activists have called Indonesians out. 

    “ [...] where was their [Indonesians netizens] compatriots’ outrage about Indonesia’s own racism-fueled conflict with black Melanesians in the contested territory of West Papua?”
  • Thursday, June 25, 2020 9:35 AM | Anonymous

    By Abrita Kuthumi


    Image credit: The Telegraph

    The COVID-19 pandemic has swept the world by storm and disrupted the daily lives of people everywhere. Countries have shut down public spaces, postponed international sporting events such as the Olympics, canceled graduations, transitioned to working remotely, and more. However, for developing nations, the pandemic has done more than just impacting the health of individuals and adding more inconveniences—it has rocked the socioeconomics of a fragile system at its core.  

    Bangladesh


    Image credit: Zabed Hasnain Chowdhury/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images 

    Ready-made garment factories have been the economic pillar and development pathway of Bangladesh. The industry employs around 4.5 million workers and accounts for 84% of the exports that travel from Bangladesh to developed regions, such as the United States and Europe. However, COVID-19 has hurt the supply chain of this industry by influencing the buyers to cancel or postpone product orders, resulting in about 1 million female garment workers being temporarily or permanently laid off. Before the pandemic, the percentage of Bangladeshi workers who earned more than six dollars a day sat at 15%. Now, with COVID-19 in full force, the economic impacts have been even more detrimental to their livelihood as widespread income cuts were implemented unexpectedly and abruptly. 

    India


    Image credit: Aljazeera

    The reality of the six-feet-apart social distancing guidelines do not apply well in India, a nation where 40% of the urban population dwells within slums. Given these living conditions, where most of the people do not have clean water and private bathrooms inside their homes, it becomes a necessity to leave their quarters for communal resources. Staying at home also raises other risks, such as starvation due to the lack of income. Many face the difficulties of having to choose between working while confronting the dangers of contamination or staying safe in isolation but being unable to feed themselves. 

    Brazil


    Image credit: Silvia Izquierdo/AP

    In Brazil, the recorded number of COVID-19 cases has hit a staggering 1,188,600 people and the death count sits at 53,830 people currently. Due to a lack of testing that directly impacts reporting, a common theme among developing countries such as Brazil, those numbers may be even higher. Brazilian President Bolsonaro has not helped lower the virus count as he has contradicted his health minister’s advice to stay home due to the negative impacts on the economy. These health and political struggles have hit poor communities the hardest, because not only are there not enough beds to treat COVID-19 patients, the hospitals are too far away for people to access in rural areas. This explains the pattern of rapid increase in COVID-19 cases among communities with less than 20,000 residents. To combat this, there are regular citizens, such as Buba Aguiar, who are helping Rio’s poorest favelas by delivering COVID-19 kits and food packages. 

    Yemen


    Image credit: CNN

    Devastated by disease, hunger, and war, Yemen has been pushed to its limit. Now, with the COVID-19 virus adding to its vulnerability, it has become one of the most urgent humanitarian crises of the world. The country was already struggling with access to necessities such as food and health. Over 80% of the population, of the nation's 24 million people, did not have a stable source of nutrition, and diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and cholera plagued the country even before COVID-19. Yemen is not equipped to handle the current pandemic because the war destroyed 3,500 medical facilities through air strikes, leaving the healthcare system operating with scraps. 

    South Africa


    Image credit: PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images

    When the South African government created the Black Economic Empowerment policy as a response to COVID-19, an act that would provide aid to majority black-owned small businesses, it gave rise to racial tensions that are deep-rooted in the country. Although the government did not continue with this idea, it created an intense response. Right-wing groups such as the AfriForum responded by claiming it was an “attack on white people and business.” In another episode of racial tension, the South African government was criticized for planning to isolate COVID-19 patients- who were mostly foreigners and white- on Robben Island, the place where many African National Congress leaders were put in prison during apartheid. The Economic Freedom Fighters’ leader Julius Malema made a statement saying, “Our government loves … to keep white people happy and safe, even at the expense of Africans.” The Daily Maverick newspaper reflected on the current events and wrote, “The lockdown, in its umpteenth day, is taking on some typically South African characteristics: it’s turning into a low-grade race war.”

  • Thursday, June 18, 2020 1:02 PM | Anonymous

    By Abrita Kuthumi

    Photo: Yonhap/Associated Press

    After years of talks on peace and reunification, there has been a sudden tense escalation between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Republic of Korea (ROK). The most recent incident that exacerbated the relations between the two Koreas was the four-story joint liaison office that is located in the North Korean territory of Kaesong and paid for by South Koreans being blown up and destroyed by North Korea. The building was highly symbolic as it was used to push forward dialogue between North Korea and South Korea. As the office stood close to the demilitarized zone, the aftermath of North Korea’s actions could be witnessed from South Korea as smoke filled the sky. 

    According to the South Korean Unification Ministry, there were no South Korean staff present at the liaison office because of its closure since January 30 after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the area. Nonetheless, the incident gravely angered the South Korean government who responded with a strong message that it was monitoring North Korean armed forces and any further attacks would be met with great opposition. South Korea’s Blue House expressed disappointment, stating it as “an act of betrayal of the expectations of all who wish for the improvement of the inter-Korean relations and settlement of peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

    North Korea has claimed the reason behind the decision to destroy the liaison building to be the leaflets that were sent to spread anti-North Korean propaganda towards the north of the demilitarized zone. Groups of North Korean defectors were launching balloons with the leaflets, which led North Korea to criticize South Korea for allowing it to continuously happen. Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, has been particularly vocal. A statement from North Korea was published that read, “The world will clearly see what severe punishment our people will mete out to the South Korean authorities and how they wipe the human scum off the earth.”

    Before this aggravation, South Korea had been aware of North Korea’s frustration with the leaflets and announced that it would seek to stop these activities by charging the defectors with the reasoning that “such action of distributing leaflets should be ceased as it not only poses a risk to the lives and property of our nationals living in the border area, but also hinders inter-Korean quarantine cooperation.” Park Sang-hak, a defector and leader of the Fighters for Free North Korea, inflamed by the decision spoke up, saying “South Korea is gagging us, who are its citizens, while kowtowing to the evil regime in the North [...] The more they suppress us, the more leaflets we will send, and the more often.” This act of the South Korean government has been criticized by some for infringement upon the freedom of speech in a democratic state. 

    Despite the South Korean government’s apparent intentions to ease tensions, given North Korea’s aggressions, analysts have been led to believe that the issue is not about the leaflets-- that is merely an excuse. Laura Bicker, the CNN Seoul correspondent, expressed that Kim Jong-un needs to make an issue to rally its people around to hide the dire economic situation that has taken a toll on the country, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic hindering the ability to acquire raw materials and smuggle. 

    South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been consistently eyeing on peace and negotiation over confrontation. After the news of the incident, he stated, “The path that two Koreas must walk is clear. Like the river that twists and turns but eventually reaches the seas, the South and North must keep their optimistic faith and taken each step towards national reconciliation, peace, and unification, however slow it may be.”
  • Monday, June 15, 2020 9:42 AM | Tim Horgan (Administrator)

    By Stuart Johnson

    The following was compiled, sourced, and written in association with my colleagues from The American University of Paris: Evan Floyd, Ki Byung Park, Karl Baldaccino, and Husam Ibrahim. 



    Mural of George Floyd on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

    Image Credit: North Central University

    Over the past two weeks, as protests over George Floyd’s death have broken out across America, people around the world have reacted powerfully and passionately. In some countries, demonstrators have joined in solidarity - vowing to highlight and even subvert their own countries’ political, social, and historical ties to racism. In others, government figures have used the opportunity to criticize the US for representing a ‘double standard’ when it comes to human rights, democracy, and police brutality.

    Below are brief summaries of respective countries' notable moments that exemplify these phenomena:

    United States


    In Concord, the protesters rallied first at Memorial Field before marching through town to the State House, chanting and holding signs for racial justice.

    Image Credit: Josie Albertson-Grove / Union Leader

    According to the USA Today, protests have now taken place in over 700 US cities including Washington D.C., New York, Seattle and Philadelphia. Legislative responses to the protests have been noticeably swift. Last Monday, Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced the Justice and Policing Act of 2020. In the Republican-held Senate, South Carolina's Tim Scott and Utah's Mitt Romney have vowed to introduce similar legislation. Over the weekend, Romney was spotted at a large Black Lives Matter demonstration in Washington D.C. and told NBC News, "We need to stand up and say, 'Black lives matter.’”

    Paris, FranceReported on by Evan Floyd, Husam Ibrahim and David Sohmer


    Photo from the #blacklivesmatter and #justicepouradama protest at the Tribunal de Paris.

    Image Credit: David Sohmer

    In Paris, two different groups joined forces: Black Lives Matter, focusing on George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, and Justice for Adama, focusing on Adama Traoré’s death in 2016. Initially, authorities barred people from gathering in front of the US Embassy due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, thousands protested there anyway, as well as on the Champ de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower. The below was reported first-hand from Evan Floyd; who attended the protest.

    Outside the U.S. Embassy

    Before the protest started, the Seine's bridges were closed off. Police vans and officers blocked the paths connecting the right and left bank. A friend and I got to the first location an hour early taking the metro. We had plans to meet up with people but the metro was unavailable soon after we arrived. Before the crowd was organized, a woman yelled “Black lives matter. My life matters,” at officers behind the gate surrounding the embassy. There was chanting for George Floyd, it shifted to Breonna Taylor and ended on Adama Traoré.

    Champ de Mars

    Journalists and photographers surrounded us before the police. They tried to conduct interviews or capture us with our signs. We called for justice. We shouted for the lives that were lost. The police were told the whole world hated them. There were arrests going on away from the crowd; we chose to stay in the thick of it. A few officers held camcorders, pointing them at us behind their body shields. A friend flipped them off. My group was shocked yet excited at the sight of a man dressed as Jesus. We saw more officers arrive and tried to figure out our exit strategy; the police were all equipped with gas masks and allowed for one exit.  Signs were collected and bags opened but we ran back in to recollect and redistribute items to their owners.

    Malta - Reported on with the help of Karl Baldaccino, Luca Splendor & Peter Hili


    Protesters place placards on barricades in front of Maltese Parliament, demanding justice for black lives.

    Image Credit: Karl Baldaccino

    On Monday night, around 300 Black Lives Matter demonstrators gathered before the Maltese Parliament holding signs that read “proud to be black” and “we are all migrants” where they were met by a rival group of anti-migration protesters holding up signs that read, “we are not racists, we are patriots.” A tense standoff ensued, and police had to step in to separate the two groups.

    Since April 2019, controversy has swirled in the country surrounding what many Maltese politicians and the police have denounced as the racially-motivated killing of Lassana Cisse – a migrant worker from the Ivory Coast. To date, two members of the Maltese armed forces, Francesco Fenech and Lorin Scicluna, have been charged with his murder.

    Ghana


    The President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, took the opportunity to denounce Mr. Floyd’s killing as well as to offer his condolences to the family, writing the above on Twitter. Peaceful demonstrations were also organized by the Diaspora Coalition and held in front of the US embassy in Accra.

    In addition to protests, this past Friday Ghana joined a coalition of 54 African countries calling for an urgent meeting by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to look into instances of police brutality and violence against people of African descent – most notably in the United States. The UNHRC has not met since March 13th, and is planning to open next week. In order for such a meeting to be held, it needs to have the backing of at least one member nation.

    South Korea - Sources from Ki Byung Park


    Protesters taking a knee in Hanbit Park in Cheonggyecheon, Seoul.

    Image Credit: Newsis, Kim Myung-won

    According to the Newsis News Agency, protests in Seoul were organized by Shim Ji-hoon (34), who used Facebook to organize a group of about 100 demonstrators. When interviewed at the march, he commented that Korea was dealing with some of the same issues as the US: "Korea is no longer a single-ethnic country...there are issues of racial discrimination such as bullying of children from multicultural families or aversion to Korean-Chinese. The gaze on black people is similar...I hope that this march will give awareness to the issue of racism in Korean society.”

    The march was initially planned to take place in front of the US embassy, but instead demonstrators marched silently from Myeong-dong, Seoul to Hanbit Square, Cheonggyecheon, wearing black clothes and pickets in honor. There, they knelt for eight minutes and forty-six seconds - the length of time officer Minneapolis Police Department’s Derek Chauvin’s knee was on Mr. Floyd’s neck.

    China


    Chinese diplomat Hua Chunying responds to U.S. Department of State’s Morgan Ortangus on May 30th.

    Image Credit: Twitter.

    Since Floyd’s death, Chinese government officials along with state-owned print and online media have used the opportunity to reverse criticism of their own government’s handling of the protests in Hong Kong back onto the US for their own aggressive police response to the protests in US cities that have turned violent. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the US of supporting a ‘double standard’ when it comes to human rights and democracy, going as far calling Hong Kong recent police’s tactics as being “very restrained” in comparison to those of the US police. In response, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has criticized China for exploiting George Floyd’s death for political gain.

    This heated back and forth all came on the eve of the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square student-led protests quelled by the Chinese state. The timing has not been lost on a number of Chinese officials and news outlets – who in particular have pointed to the Trump Administration’s vow to use the military to quell protests as justification for their own government’s actions. In the current context, that parallel is specifically being drawn to justify China’s move to pass the Hong Kong National Security Law. 

    Among other capitals, demonstrators also took to the streets in Ottawa, Vancouver, Stockholm, Athens, Milan, Mexico City, Auckland, Amsterdam, and Warsaw - a truly unprecedentedly passionate demonstration of just how widespread the outrage, anguish, and hope for a more just future the death of George Floyd has brought about.


  • Thursday, June 11, 2020 9:15 AM | Tim Horgan (Administrator)

    By Abrita Kuthumi

    The South Asian neighbors, Nepal and India, are walking away from diplomatic ties as the long running saga concerning the 230-mile disputed territories of Limpiyadhura, Kalapani, and Lipulekh rises back to the surface. Although Nepal and India seemingly reached an agreement on 98 percent of the borders through the Nepal India Joint Technical Committee that was created in 1981, the 2 percent that comprises the three territories have yet to be decided. 

    In May, where the most recent clash took place, the Land Management Ministry of Nepal publicly announced a new map of the country that also included the northwest territories would be published as part of educational textbooks for school and be used for administrative work. The decision follows India’s creation of a political map, which included the controversial area as part of their country back in November 2019. Although the government of Nepal criticized India’s actions as unilateral and proposed the two countries fix the argument through diplomatic talk, the response was met with silence. 

    Then, in early May, the Defense Minister of India, Rajnath Singh, announced the inauguration of a road project that extends from India’s Uttarakhand State to Tibet’s Kailash Mansarovar. It would be a fast route for Indians to make the pilgrimage to Tibet and create better opportunities for trade between other countries in the region, such as China. This infuriated the Nepalese public because the roadway would interject Lipulekh, one of the contested areas that Nepal believes it owns, and thus, protests erupted in front of the Indian Embassy in Nepal. Also, the Nepalese saw themselves as being ignored once again. The Nepalese public put pressure on the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to take a bold stance on this geopolitical issue, resulting in Nepal issuing the new map; reigniting the argument. The government of Nepal also issued a statement to India, asking them “to refrain from carrying out any activity” on the territory that has been the center of the debate between the two countries.  

    Historical background

    The dispute between Nepal and India over the boundaries travels back to 1947 AD, when India gained its independence from Great Britain. To clarify the modern borders between the two, there was a treaty signed by Nepal and the British East India Company known as the Sugauli Treaty in 1815. It stated that Kali River, also known as the Mahakali downstream, indicated the western border of Nepal. Without a map attached and the Mahakali headwater source flowing from two different locations, it has left this issue unsolved. Nepal claims the start of the Mahakali to be Limpiyadhura whereas India claims it to be Lipulekh, which is further east. 

    Distraction from Covid-19?

    Some are questioning the timing of this heated dispute for taking place during the coronavirus pandemic. Akhilesh Upadhyay, former chief editor of The Kathmandu Post, expressed that the Prime Minister Oli was using the territorial dispute to take away the negative attention from the underwhelming response of the government to the Covid-19. Asok Swain, Indian professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Sweden’s Uppsala University, echoed the sentiment in India, stating that “The road inauguration was an attempt of the Modi government to divert India’s attention from [Covid-19] policy failures.”

    China, the third-party

    There have been claims from India that Nepal’s political move to draw up the disputed territories under their sovereignty had to involve China. Swaran Singh, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, reflects on Nepal’s new political map as reinforcing “allegations of Nepal becoming more emboldened to take a tough stand and use harsh language against India to please their Chinese friends.” Khadga KC, Head of Diplomacy at Tribhuvan University in Nepal has rejected that narrative, claiming “As a sovereign nation, Nepal does not need to drag another neighbor in between [...] in fact, Nepal become forced to reveal its new political map after India unilaterally built and inaugurated the road within its territory.” China, claiming neutrality, chimed in by choosing to opt out of the situation. Foreign Ministry spokesperson for China, Zhao Lijian, offered a statement, saying “We hope the two countries will resolve their differences properly through friendly consultations and refrain from taking any unilateral action that may complicate the situation."


  • Tuesday, June 02, 2020 10:40 AM | Tim Horgan (Administrator)

    By Stuart Johnson

     The Russian pipeline laying ship “Akademik Tscherski” was recently docked off the island of Rügen, Germany in the Baltic Sea to complete the Nord Stream 2 project.

    Image Credit: Bild / Stefan Sauer

    Last week, outgoing US Ambassador to Germany and former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell told the Handelsblatt, a leading German language business newspaper, that Germany and Russia should expect fresh US sanctions to impede the completion of their Nord Stream 2 pipeline. But there remain many questions of what form these sanctions would take, and whether or not they could be passed quickly enough to stop the project’s completion - there is a mere 6% left to lay and a Russian ship capable of completing the project, the Akademik Tscherski, has just completed a two month long voyage to re-position itself off the coast of Germany in the Baltic Sea.

    New Hampshire’s Senior Senator Jeanne Shaheen is well acquainted with this issue - at the end of 2019, it was she and Republican Senator of Texas Ted Cruz that successfully included legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act to compel Allseas, a Swiss company then working on the project, to stop work under the threat of US sanctions. Unfortunately, this was just a temporary solution, and Russia, via its state-owned oil and gas company, Gazprom, along with their German partners, has remained defiant in completing the pipeline. In response to this latest threat of sanctions from the US, a spokesman for Nord Stream 2 emphasized that the project is in accordance with international law and will be completed as planned.

    Nord Stream 2 Project

    As market demand for natural gas around the world has increased in recent years due to the need to move away from fossil fuels, Russia has sought to expand its market share – particularly in the European Union through Germany. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would connect the two countries, does this. Moreover, in short, what makes this project of critical geostrategic importance to US national security interests is that pipeline promises to allow Russia to bypass Ukraine – a key US and NATO ally in Eastern Europe. Back in December, it was actually Shaheen and Cruz’s legislation that compelled Russia to sign a newfive-year transit contract with Ukraine – an important agreement for Ukraine given its economic benefits, as well as the leverage it gave them vis-à-vis Russia in their ongoing war with them in the Donbass region.

    The Nord Stream 2 pipeline connects Russian and German gas markets - bypassing Ukraine

    Image Credit: Nord Stream 2 Website

    Ukraine-Russia’s “Transnational” Conflict

    There are of course significant historical / civilizational sources of division that drive the Ukraine-Russia conflict, most importantly the Annexation of Crimea in 2014; however, it is important to consider that this conflict has now become a “transnational” one –  many cross-border relationships between individuals and groups of people are impeding the resolution of the war in the Donbass region. In other words, to date, a multitude of factors, including economic conflicts like this Nord Stream 2 project, are impeding traditional conflict resolution strategies like the Minsk Agreements from providing a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Over the past six years, in total, the conflict has killed more than 13,000, wounded more than 25,000 and forced 2.5 million people from their homes. Concerningly, even in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, deadly fighting continues – with five government soldiers, eleven Russian-backed fighters, and one civilian killed in the month of April according to official and unofficial reports from the OSCE.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, while there are certain other economic forces at play like the US’ interest in selling their liquefied natural gas to Europe, conflict over the Nord Stream 2 project is one of the latest manifestations of the still unresolved (not “frozen”) Ukraine-Russia conflict, which broke out in 2014. Another round of sanctions promises another temporary fix to a conflict that clearly is in need of a more multi-step, multi-modal process– like the oneadvocated for by the Euro-Atlantic Security Leadership Group composed of experts from think tanks in the US, Russia and Europe. And yet, they seem to be looming as the only option lawmakers have at their disposal in Washington. As for Ukraine and the Donbass region, they are the ultimate losers, as it seems likely that violence will continue to rage while the “transnational” forces in the region pursue their respective economic interests.


  • Wednesday, August 21, 2019 10:59 AM | Tim Horgan (Administrator)


    The Amazon rainforest is responsible for 25% of the worlds oxygen and home to indigenous tribes, however, the portion of the forest that lie in Brazil is under targeted attacks by Jair Bolsonaro, Brazils current president.

    WHO IS JAIR BOLSONARO

    Jair Bolsonaro was a former captain under Brazils military dictatorship and was elected president in October 2018. Many are touting his election as a continuance of the rightward authoritarian shift in global politics. Bolsonaro is a climate skeptic whose environmental policy, consisting of opening up the Amazon for development and agribusiness, has drawn international condemnation.

    Historically, Brazil has been a successful leader in combating the climate crisis. According to the New York Times, between 2004 and 2012, Brazil created new conservation areas, increased monitoring of the forest, and took away government credits from rural workers caught razing protected areas. These efforts brought deforestation to the lowest levels since record keeping began.

    These practices, however, are nowhere to be seen in Bolsonaros administration. Bolsonaro has said that Brazil is like a virgin that every pervert from the outside lusts for, and claims that criticism of his environmental policy is an attempt to restrict Brazils growth. Bolsonaro believes that opening up the Amazon to commercial exploitation--including mining and agribusiness--is the key to the development of Brazils economic potential. He has pulled back on enforcement measures like fines, warnings, and the seizure of illegal deforestation equipment. He has systematically slashed the environmental agencys budget and recently claimed that his own governments satellite found evidence that claims of dangerous deforestation are lies. According to the Associated Press, Brazils portion of the Amazon has lost more than 1,330 square miles of forest since Bolsonaro took office in October of last year.  The Amazon produces 25% of the Earths oxygen, is the most biodiverse spot on the planet, and is currently losing the equivalent of three football fields of tree cover a minute. The rainforest is also incredibly vital in absorbing and sorting carbon dioxide through a natural process which slows down global warming. However, when trees are cut down, bulldozed, or burned the Carbon Dioxide is released back into the atmosphere. An independent research study aimed at cataloguing the impact of Amazon destruction on global warming conducted by the Associated Press found that in the last 50 years, one fifth of the Amazon has been cut and burned to make way for logging, mining, and ranching. Scientists are afraid that should the current trend continue, the Amazon could potentially degrade into a savannah and would no longer be capable of its natural processes that aid in combating climate change. Oppositely, Bolsonaro believes that the key to Brazils economic future lies in opening up the Amazon for commercial exploitation and has dubbed any criticisms of his policies as a concerted attempt at stifling Brazils economic growth, despite proof from human rights activists that commercial exploitation greatly endangers the Amazons hundreds of indigenous tribes.

    The majority of the worlds 100 or so uncontacted tribes live in the Amazon in Brazil, and their protection is inscribed in Brazils constitution. Indigenous tribes are guaranteed under law the preservation of their rights and cultures, which have been persecuted for centuries. Bolsonaro has forgone those enshrined promises and instead campaigned on hard cuts to government funding for indigenous peoples and has frozen the expansion of federally protected reserves. In response to concerns about what opening up the Amazon to mining could do to indigenous populations, Bolsonaro stated that indigenous people want to work, they want to produce and they cant, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of people in more than 400 tribes live, and rely on, the Amazon.

    Survival International, an organization dedicated to protecting indigenous people and their tribes, has called for increased police protection for tribes in the Amazon. However, due to violence from illegal loggers and ranchers, Brazils Indian Affairs Department FUNAI, has been prevented from working in the area. Despite these concerns, Bolsonaro continues to defend his economic agenda and, according to a Guardian article which likened his forgoing of indigenous rights to genocide, stated that, “(t)here is no indigenous territory where there arent minerals. Gold, tin, and magnesium are in these lands, especially in the Amazon, the richest area in the world. Im not getting into this nonsense of defending land for Indians. Human rights activists have called the situation an emergency, stating that the remote Awa tribe live in such fear that they teach children not to cry so no one can know where they are. Additionally, a plethora of gold miners have invaded the Yanomami territory bringing disease and death to its people. Facing international outrage and cries to stop his commercial exploitation Bolsonaro offered a resounding and final response; the Amazon is ours, not yours.

    -By Monericka Semeran, WACNH Intern

  • Tuesday, August 20, 2019 11:04 AM | Tim Horgan (Administrator)


    It's August 14, 2019: For the first time since 2007, the yield of US 10-year Treasury bonds falls below that of the 2-year bonds. This inversion sends ripples throughout financial markets, as these flips have occurred before every recession in modern history, causing investors to quickly take money out of stocks and invest in bonds instead. The last time the economy saw such a yield-curve inversion was December 2005, two years before the Great Recession. Following the financial scare, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day 808 points lower than it began it, a 3.1% drop. This is not a surprising occurrence these days in the financial markets though, as the Dow Jones had fallen and risen 350 points in each session last week, with a dark cloud of economic uncertainty hanging over every decision to invest that dates back a year and a half. Now, let's take it back to the beginning...

    April 3, 2018: US President Donald Trump announced a series of tariffs on Chinese goods totaling $60 billion, including products from shoes and clothing, to consumer electronics. The move comes on the heels of an announced tariff on all global imports into the US of steel and aluminum, giving exemptions to allies such as Canada, Mexico, the European Union, Australia, South Korea, Argentina, and Brazil. These two moves, directly targeting Chinese trade, fulfill a promise made by Trump throughout his 2016 presidential campaign to reduce the over $300 billion trade deficit with China and comes after an investigation into Chinese trade practices, which began in August 2017. The tariffs were defended by US trade representatives and President Trump by saying that the government’s aim is, “strategically defending itself from China’s economic aggression,” particularly on the subject of intellectual theft by China, who is viewed by the administration as an “economic enemy”. China immediately responded to the initial steel and aluminum tariff with $3 billion in tariffs on American goods, including pork and wine. Following the targeted tariff list, however, China responded with a more proportionate tariff regime of $50 billion as well, including American chemicals and cars.

    July 6 2018: Three months later, the revised first round of tariffs on Chinese goods totaling an additional $50 billion, went into effect, focusing on goods containing “industrially significant technology.” This round of tariffs came just a month after US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that the trade war would be put ‘on hold.’ China’s first round of tariffs went into effect the same day, revised down to $34 billion worth of goods. At the same time, a list for a second round of tariffs was under review by the White House, totaling $16 billion and including instruments, electrical machinery, and iron and steel products.

    July 10, 2018: Just four days after the first list of tariffs went into effect, the third list of tariffs, and the most extensive to date, was announced by the US Trade Representative. The list targeted over $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, including over 6000 separate commodities and proposes a 10% tariff on these products. China responded with $60 billion in tariffs on August 3, and 11 days later, China lodged its first formal complaint against the US with the World Trade Organization, alleging that US tariffs on solar panels are affecting its trade advantage. On August 23, both countries second round of tariffs went into effect and China lodged another WTO complaint against the US, followed by the third round going into effect on September 23.

    December 1, 2018: The United States and China, over a working dinner at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, agree to a 90-day truce in the trade war. Both countries agreed to refrain from increasing existing or imposing new tariffs while both countries work towards a larger trade deal. Substantive trade talks in this period occur from January 7 to 9, January 30 and 31, February 11 to 15, February 21 to 24, March 28 and 29, April 3 to 5, and April 30 to May 1, 2019.

    May 5, 2019: News out of each trade meeting was generally positive and signaled that a larger trade deal was certainly possible to hammer out between the two sides, evident by the openness by both sides to extend the truce period to have the best chance at making a deal. However, on May 5 Donald Trump threatened that the third list of tariffs, worth $200 billion, would see a bump from a 10% tariff to a 25% one and that he was considering a 25% tariff on a further $325 billion worth of Chinese goods. The tariff bump went into effect just 5 days later, signaling an official end to the truce period and forcing China to do the same on its third-round tariffs. In tweeting about the tariff increase, Trump cited the need for talks to accelerate and that China would not be able to continually renegotiate. Six days later, Chinese telecommunications and electronics company Huawei was banned by the US from purchasing from US companies unless given government approval. Through June and July, trade talks were held again and signaled positive progress, a second temporary truce was agreed, and some restrictions were relaxed.

    August 1, 2019: Despite a perceived warming of trade talks, Trump announced another 10% tariff, this time on $300 billion in Chinese goods, effective September 1. This tariff regime is the largest one announced, effectively placing tariffs on all Chinese products imported into the US, and further threats were made to raise existing tariffs again.

    August 5, 2019: In perhaps the most significant action taken during the US-China Trade War, for the first time since 1994, the US Treasury officially designated China as a ‘currency manipulator.’ The move comes after the Chinese yuan fell to its lowest exchange rate against the US dollar in 11 years after the August 1 announcement of new tariffs. China has long been treated internationally as a currency manipulator, keeping the yuan artificially low to gain a competitive advantage in trade, but the move to officially designate them as such is a very drastic and rather unexpected one.

    The US trade war with China that has seen actions and reactions taken and implemented back and forth over the last almost two years has injected a constant sense of volatility in the global economy, and of possible instability. The erratic movement of the Dow Jones last week makes this evident; further accentuated by its performance on August 19, which followed up a close on Friday up 300 points with another 300-point rise, indicating an optimistic view on an approaching end to the trade war and limits to its economic fallout. Though there may be reason to hope that the volatility of this trade war may be coming to end before the year is over, about 74% of economic analysts surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics still believe that the US is headed towards a recession in the next two years. Strong showings on the stock market for the foreseeable future don’t rule out a recession, as the stock market rose for 12 months straight following the last yield-curve inversion of bonds in 2005. The trade war has certainly increased the overall unpredictability of global markets, and for the everything else not involved in these market mechanisms, it is only a waiting game as to whether a recession is on its way or not.

    -Michael Pappas, WACNH Events and Education Coordinator

  • Wednesday, August 14, 2019 1:24 PM | Tim Horgan (Administrator)


    Kashmir is an ethnically diverse Himalayan region that was contested territory even before Pakistan and India gained their independence from Britain in 1947.  Following the partition of India, the Indian Independence Act allotted Kashmir the freedom to choose the country that they would join.  Kashmir’s Maharaja, Hari Singh, chose India in return for its help against invading Pakistani tribesmen.  However, war still erupted between India and Pakistan and the United Nations recommended that they handle matters by holding a referendum vote in which the people of Kashmir would choose which nation to join.  Unfortunately, neither party could agree on a plan to demilitarize the region for the voting to take place.  The UN forced a ceasefire in 1949 and the region became officially divided.

                A second War took place in 1965, and another brief conflict occurred in 1999, at which point both India and Pakistan were nuclear powers.  Today, both nations claim Kashmir as theirs despite only occupying certain territories.  An armed revolt has been steadily increasing in the Indian occupied territory for 30 years, and the Indian government blames Pakistan for backing the separatist militants.

    According to BBC News, there were earlier signs of unrest before the official Indian revocation order, including the deployment of tens of thousands of Indian troops to Kashmir, the cancellation of a major Hindu pilgrimage, the shutting of schools and colleges, ordering tourists to leave, suspending internet access and communications, and arresting political leaders.  Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is a special provision that allows Kashmir its autonomy, which includes the right to make its own laws, have its own flag, and have its own constitution.  The article also allowed for rights regarding permanent residency, property ownership, and other fundamental laws.  According to an Al Jazeera article on the matter, this allowed the Kashmir government to potentially bar outsiders from buying property in the region and settling there.

    The current situation on the ground is one of turmoil according to several residents.  The main city is currently a maze of razor wires and steel barricades, with drones and helicopters flying overhead according to reporters for Al Jazeera.  Kashmiri resident Zameer Ahmed told the Associated Press “The entire Srinagar city has been knitted in razor wire to seek our resilience and obedience.” This has created a situation that makes Kashmir is currently the most militarized region in the world, with no easy solutions in sight.  People with family in the region who live elsewhere have reported that they have not had any contact with their loved ones, and are unable to reach them due to the communication shutdown.  Many of them have taken to Twitter and believe that the internet shutdown is an attempt by the Indian government to stop activists from documenting what is actually happening.

                Prime Minister Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are employing increasingly nationalistic language and practices, leading many Kashmiri activists to believe that the revocation of article 370 is an attempt by the government to essentially erase the only majority Muslim region in India.  They state that PM Modi seeks to make India a Hindu only country by allowing Hindus to settle in Kashmir.  Modi, however, stridently disagrees with this interpretation, and the Home Minister, Amit Shah, stated “I want to tell the people of Jammu and Kashmir what damage Article 370 did to the state.  It’s because of these sections that democracy was never fully implemented, corruption increased in the state, that no development could take place.  The Indian government is also moving to break the region into administered districts: Muslim-majority Kashmir and Hindu-majority Jammu, and Buddhist-majority Ladakh.  Senior leader of the opposition party, P Chidambaram, responded to Shah and described the move as a “catastrophic step,” stating “you think you have scored a victory, but you are wrong and history will prove you to be wrong. Future generations will realize what a grave mistake this house is making today.”

                Much like Kashmir, the legality of the revoking Article 370 is also hotly contested.  One constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap, told the news agency ANI that the order was “constitutionally sound,” and that “no legal and constitutional fault can be found in it.  Yet, the BBC reports that another constitutional expert AG Noorani told BBC Hindi that it was “an illegal decision, akin to committing fraud,” and that it “could be challenged in India’s Supreme Court.”  However, the Supreme Court has stated that the Kashmir crackdown can continue.  An open letter signed by 69 human rights activists and organization, lawyers, journalists, and academics addressed PM Modi over concerns of human rights violations due to the crackdown.  They are calling on Modi to revoke the harsh curfew, reinstate communications, release the political rivals that were arrested, and reinstate Article 370.  There are no signs, however, that PM Modi will acquiesce to the requests.

    -Monericka Semeran, WACNH Intern

  • Friday, August 09, 2019 4:51 PM | Tim Horgan (Administrator)


    On Monday, India’s government announced that the special, pseudo-autonomous status for the region of Kashmir would be removed. In preparation of the announcement, the government deployed thousands of troops to the region in the two weeks prior, arrested hundreds of local politicians, closed schools, banned public meetings, and “severed internet connections, mobile phone lines and even land lines,” attempting to prevent communication in or out in anticipation of unrest.

    The provision allowing for Kashmir’s special status, now being revoked, is Article 370, which was added to India’s constitution in 1947 when British India was split into two nations, the Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India. Jammu and Kashmir was a majority Muslim state ruled by a local prince lying between the two nations, with both countries sending in troops and India taking two-thirds. Article 370 was signed by the prince at the time, granting regional autonomy to the area in exchange for joining India. In the decades since, Pakistan and India have governed their parcels of Kashmir separately with hopes of one day having full control, fighting two major wars over it. Even today, troops on either side periodically fire shots against the other, and Muslim extremists have resorted to violence on many occasions trying to expel Indian forces, including the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that left 166 dead.

    Contributing to the long-running disputes in Kashmir is the continued status of Article 370 being in question, because “(a)lthough it was intended to be temporary, Article 370 says that it can only be abrogated with the consent of the legislative body that drafted the state constitution. That body dissolved itself in 1957, and India's Supreme Court ruled last year that Article 370 is therefore a permanent part of the constitution.” The administration of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi contests this ruling, believing that it should be up to the President, who is beholden to the ruling party, Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Indian Judiciary has been on shaky ground throughout Modi’s tenure, and Modi himself campaigned for re-election against Pakistan and promising to integrate Kashmir fully, a cornerstone of the BJP for decades, which resulted in his party’s landslide victory in May.

    Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan vehemently condemned the status revocation, warning that it could lead to war between the two rival nations, ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Muslims, and an increase in terrorist attacks. A suicide bombing in Kashmir in February by a Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, which left 40 Indian security forces dead and led to the first aerial skirmishes between the two countries in five decades, is largely believed to have been the catalyst for the government’s move for Kashmir. Pakistan, which is currently helping mediate a deal between the United States and the Taliban in Afghanistan, is in favor of US mediation for negotiations with India over Kashmir, but India has rejected such requests in favor of direct talks with its rival. Some Pakistani officials have said that flareups in Kashmir could hinder the country’s ability to “support the U.S. mission in its mission in Afghanistan.” The Taliban promptly denounced this rhetoric, urging “both India and Pakistan to refrain from taking steps that could pave a way for violence and complications in the region,” and not to link the issues in Kashmir with Afghanistan, “because the issue of Afghanistan is not related nor should Afghanistan be turned into the theater of competition between other countries.”

    Since the presidential decree on Monday, protests have been breaking out in Kashmir and soldiers and police have used violence against those demonstrators and civilians, though the communication blackout has prevented reports of violence from getting out. Elsewhere in India, several opposition parties, and some regional parties, came out in support of the administration’s decree, while celebratory demonstrations broke out in Mumbai, Delhi, and the Western state of Gujarat, where Modi is from. On Thursday night, Modi addressed the Indian people, defending the move to wrest control from Kashmir by claiming that it would “bring a cleaner, less corrupt government, more security and a stronger local economy.”

    The sudden move by Modi and the BJP to fundamentally shift the power balance in Kashmir is not an entirely surprising move, by a Prime Minister and party centered around India as a Hindu nation. The Muslim-majority region of Kashmir holding a unique status in the country, as well as being a longstanding flashpoint and epicenter for the tense rivalry between India and Pakistan, has long made it a key prize for Hindu nationalists in the nation. With Modi’s seemingly overwhelming mandate in two straight election for his policies, pushback from within India against the move will almost certainly be minimal. Additionally, the idea that people in both Pakistan and India have wrapped parts of their national identities around the standoff in Kashmir makes conflict a distinct possibility. While the two nuclear states have narrowly avoided war in the decades following their acquisitions of nuclear weapons, the official status of Kashmir have never shifted as much as now. It is unclear what news will continue to come out of the region while India continues its communications blackout, and where the relationship between Pakistan and India will stand whenever the dust settles.

    - By Michael Pappas, WACNH Events and Education Coordinator

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