Conflict, dictatorships, instability and religious extremism in the Middle East, in the Horn of Africa, and in Central Africa plus the siren call of a better life has resulted in Europe’s worst immigration crisis since the Second World War. Hundreds of thousands of desperate people continue to crowd onto unseaworthy boats in hopes of crossing the Mediterranean, while thousands of Syrian refugees stream along railway tracks in the Balkans in hopes of finding asylum in Europe.
The number of dead continues to climb as overcrowded vessels flounder and sink, taking hundreds to a watery grave. More than 2500 people have drowned in the Mediterranean in the first nine months of this year. As in each of the ten years prior to 2015, the number of people who lose their lives in 2016 while looking for a better place to live will most likely surpass that. On the last week-end in August 2015, “the Italian coastguard plucked 4,400 people from the Mediterranean coast off Libya in 22 different operations…. Meanwhile the Greek coast guard picked up 877 people in 30 search and rescue operations.” (1)
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Woody Island and Mischief Reef sound like names out of a Hardy Boys mystery, complete with mysterious goings-on to capture our imagination. However, instead of being off the shores of Bayport, the home of our amateur sleuths, they are part of the Paracel and Spratly island chains in the South China Sea. China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan all claim the islands because they are not only believed to contain oil and gas deposits, their placement would also confer greater influence over one of the world’s most strategic waterways.
These hundreds of islands are little more than reefs, shoals and sandbars that normally merit little notice. However, since the summer of 2014, China has sent dredgers to an estimated half-dozen islands in the Paracel and Spratly chains to suck up sand from the shallow depths to build the reefs up. According to surveillance photos published by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, an arm of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, China has started building installations on now reclaimed islands. (1)
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Remember the peace dividend – the era of peace, prosperity, and jobs promised by western political leaders after the collapse of the Soviet Union?
One definition of ‘peace dividend’ is ” the money that becomes available in a national government’s budget when the country is at peace, and can afford to reduce its defence spending.”(1) Peace dividend also refers to “an increase in investor confidence that sparks an increase in stock prices after a war ends, or a major threat to national security is eliminated. The money saved from defence spending is usually used toward housing, education and other projects”.(2)
However, instead of peace, prosperity and jobs, the world seems to be growing increasingly angry, losing patience over lost opportunities. Whether in the United States, Europe, or elsewhere in the western world, the 99 versus one per cent, and the continued winnowing out of the middle class is evidence more of a plutocracy or rich élite pulling the strings of power than democratically-elected governments dedicated to the health and well-being of their citizens.
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A year after the first protests in Kiev’s Maidan Square, the stakes in Ukraine are high, and increasingly more dangerous. The protests began in November 2013 after then president Victor Yanukovich backed down on a decision to sign a partnership deal with the European Union. In an abrupt turnabout, Yanukovich signed an accord with Russia for a $15-Billion bailout to help Ukraine’s ailing economy. Continue Reading »
Terrorists killed almost 18,000 people in 2013, an increase of 61 per cent over the year before. In its second Global Terrorism Index, the Economics and Peace Institute says that more that 50 people were killed in each of 24 countries in 2013. More than 80 per cent of those killed died in five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. However, terrorist attacks also claimed lives in 55 other countries such as Turkey, Mexico, the United States, the United Kingdom, Greece, Israel, the Czech Republic and Chile. The largest increase in terrorism was in Iraq where fatalities rose 164 per cent to 6,362. ISIS is responsible for most of the deaths in the country. Continue Reading »