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 »
Is Nero fiddling while Rome burns? As the 2014 G20 Summit drew to a close in Brisbane, world leaders voiced their determination to step up efforts to revitalise the world economy, and create more jobs. In their final communiqué, they “set an ambitious goal to lift the G20’s GDP by at least an additional two per cent by 2018.” (1) G20 leaders also promised action to increase trade, eradicate poverty, and strengthen global institutions. In addition to agreeing to “support strong and effective action to address climate change”, world leaders also reaffirmed their “longstanding and rollback commitments to resist protectionism” (2) Words such as commitment, promise and determination appear throughout the communiqué like a leitmotif, haunting and ethereal, but saying little.
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