Mandela's memorial service was yesterday, and the speeches and coverage were laudatory, as they should be, and the crowd was raucous, celebratory, despite the rain. Obama in his speech challenged the audience to use Mandela's example in their own lives, to "take risks on behalf of ideals" but in a studied, disciplined manner.
I was most struck by the notes of dissensus, the public in the stadium booing South Africa's President Jacob Zuma when he appeared on the big screen and the coverage noting that the anti-apartheid movement and Mandela were not universally embraced by U.S. policymakers at the time.
A friend asked me who are the younger Mandelas of the future? Here, it's hard to imagine individuals who will or may have such impact, in part because people who have the charisma and intelligence to be transformational historical figures are often killed in their prime before their full contributions can be realized. It's also true that in this era of instant celebrity we too soon elevate people to receive acclaim, sometimes deserved but in others cases, like Greg Mortenson and his story, much of it untrue, of extending education access in the Stans. In other cases, there isn't a single individual leading the charge but a movement, a network that catalyzes action. Here are some recent news stories that pick up on these themes.
This week's stories have no unifying theme other than they kind of capture the end of term mood, a certain grumpiness on the part of the writer (Bjorn Lomborg's tsk tsking of clean energy advocates, Paul Collier's screed against immigration) or not altogether pleasant images (an elephant run amok in a wedding, modern conflict with bows and arrows). Happy grading! Or dissertating! Or turning in those final papers! Enjoy. (My wife pointed out a hopeful Iranian "Yes We Can" video of Rouhani so all is not bleak!).
This was a momentous week with the announcement of an interim deal on Iran's nuclear program. There were some critics to be sure of this effort, but I for one am hopeful that the six month effort to halt or at least pause some aspects of Iran's nuclear program will eventually lead to a permanent reduction of tensions between Iran and the West.
It's obviously too soon to say but as we give thanks this holiday season for our families and friends, we can only hope that the diplomatic overtures will ultimately bear fruit. With the past decade plus having yielded relentless military campaigns (some of them necessary but wars without seeming end nonetheless), we can only wish for pragmatic leaders to seize moments of opportunity to avoid yet another war. I know some people don't see it that way, so here's a set of links describing the deal, providing some links and commentary from critics, and some links to defenders of the agreement.
The annual climate negotiations are going on at the moment in Warsaw, Poland. For long-time observers of the process, they have a Groundhog Day-esque quality to them. Every year the same issues seem to come up again and again, and it's unclear if there has been any meaningful progress or if each negotiation is more or less a replay of what transpired the previous year, with divisions between developed and developing countries almost always ever-present.
Rich countries aren't doing enough while poor countries and environmental activists are demanding greater action because there is a climate crisis. Somehow, 10,000+ activists descending upon delegates of nearly 200 nations doesn't seem to do much, yet the annual dance. This year is no different, though it is an interim meeting before a new and improved climate agreement with some legal form set to be negotiated in 2015. In the meantime, here is what's going down this year...
This week, more news from the relief effort and typhoon Haiyan and how the events in the Philippines threaten to overshadow the on-going climate negotiations in Warsaw.
The Security and Relief Situation on the Ground
- U.S. military ramps up aid to Philippines with up to 1,000 soldiers likely on the ground from Okinawa in short order, ferrying Filipino troops and aid supplies
- Plenty of gasoline but gas stations won't open for fear of looting; mayor, a relative of Imelda Marcos, urges residents to flee, tells foreign aid workers "Please be self-sufficient, because there’s nothing"
- Tacloban so bad that some prisoners who were freed from jail during the storm turning themselves in to get food and water
- Fears of nearby guerillas coming to the area
- Mob ransacked food storage in Tacloban, rice bags collapsed killing eight looters, nearby Ormoc peaceful
- 1,000 Filipino troops deployed to the Tacloban area to restore order, curfew
Here are a few articles for your consideration. For those of you interested in conservation, we have had a disturbing pattern of stories about rapid declines in species around the world, some of them due to poaching, what has been described as an "environmental crime wave," and others as a result of disease. All of this suggests to me that nature is in serious trouble as population, disruptive modernity, and consumptive pressures may be taking their toll on the natural world. On top of existing stories about declines in elephants, rhinos, bees, bats, and amphibians, we now have reports of a major decline in moose populations. Here are those stories:
This is my first time doing the Duck linkage, as I will be alternating with Charli on Tuesdays. I may eventually figure out a style, a pattern, a focus, but my first shot at this will be either completely random or entirely typical of my various fascinations and interests. As I panic every other Monday night, y'all can send me suggests via twitter (@smsaideman).
Here is your morning linkage with stories on energy and the environment, conservation, conflict in Africa, and health.
Energy and Environment
- Alex Wang on the really bad air in the Chinese city of Harbin, buses getting lost, school canceled, video here
- 4.5% drop in GHG emissions in the U.S. between 2011 and 2012, but methane rising in shale gas producing states?
- Questions about whether China is last best hope for carbon capture and storage
- Newish IEA report on what is needed for redrawing the climate and energy map
- According to economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, "gender smarts" were key to ending the recent congressional deadlock. She argues: "Unlocking gridlock in government, it turns out, depends on precisely the mechanism that unlocks competitive strength in the private sector: a diverse team (laden with gender smarts and cultural fluency) managed by leaders whose aggregate of experience motivates them to manage inclusively."
- A new "ism": motherism, or prejudice against stay-at-home-moms.The Guardian reports that- according to Dr Aric Sigman, a biologist and psychologist- "stay-at-home mothers are increasingly facing a damaging but unspoken prejudice that assumes they are stupid, lazy and unattractive."
- Medical staff working in Syria are reporting that snipers appear to be targeting pregnant women- with several cases of heavily pregnant women being shot in the uterus.
- In a great post entitled "Why so few women in Nobel science?" Debasish Mitra laments the lack of gender equality amongst the past winners and lists six women who deserved to win the Nobel prize for science.
Yay, pointless self-inflicted global catastrophe avoided. In between all the gnashing of teeth about whether the United States Congress would act to forestall a default on the country's national debt and actually reopen the government, some other things were happening around the world. I've been meaning to write about the energy and environment front for weeks, but my attention has been captured by the awful spectacle that was the U.S. Congress, namely the machinations of the radical Tea Party right. Before I delve into links about energy and environment, let me give conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat the last word on the government shutdown:
It was an irresponsible, dysfunctional and deeply pointless act, carried out by a party that on the evidence of the last few weeks shouldn’t be trusted with the management of a banana stand, let alone the House of Representatives.
- The shutdown continues to dominate the day's news.Resolution still seems distant. Last week, US Treasury Department Secretary Jack Lew reminded the Senate that extraordinary measures used to cope with our current debt limit run out on Thursday. This weekend, IMF head Christine Lagarde says that a default could tip the world economy into recession.
- The African Union served up some of the more consequential international news over the past few days, first slamming the International Criminal Court for an allegedly anti-African bias and then demanding that trials against sitting presidents Omar Bashir (Sudan) and Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya) be deferred so long as they remain in office. The Telegraph reports that the AU is not alone: European politicians and members of the Security Council now back a one-year suspension of Kenyatta's trial -- on war on terror grounds, of course. For a more inside-baseball account of the AU's internal politics, see this AJE editorial. It rightly points out that the danger is the continued non-ratification or non-signature of the Rome Statute by many African countries -- not mass withdrawals of existing ratifiers.
- As an aside, Kenyatta has separately brought suit against the ICC, calling for charges to be dropped due to the prosecution's intimidation, bribery, and tainting of several defense witnesses. For Kenya watchers, the news would be funny if it weren't so tragic (Kenyatta and Ruto are suspected to have tampered with -- or just straight up disappeared -- several ICC witnesses).
- In Libya, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan says that his kidnapping last week was an attempted coup. Libya's Muslim Brotherhood hopes to profit off the incident, while the FT suggests that Zeidan has emerged strengthened in its aftermath. The kidnapping was connected to the US operation to capture an Al Qaeda leader: we said we had Libyan government permission, they denied it and denounced the capture, and Zeidan got kidnapped in retaliation for government involvement. See Marc Thiessen's excellent critique in the Washington Post of the consequences of leaks about Libya.
Women missing...online? The Huffington Post has reported that the gender gap exists online- with 200 million fewer women using the internet than men.
- Human Rights Watch has a new report on the killing of 190 civilians in early August by members of five Islamist rebel groups: Ahrar al-Sham, Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, Suquor al-Izz
- Congratulations to Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on the Nobel Peace Prize. They won't have much time to celebrate given a mid-2014 timeline to destroy all of Syria's chemical weapons capabilities. Here's a link to this week's OPCW press conference on the latest from Syria with Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü and members of the Syria Advance Team.
- Conditions for Syria's refugees in Jordan and Lebanon are deteriorating -- UNHCR estimates that there will be more than 5 million refugees by the end of 2014; UNICEF reports that children are facing early marriage, child labor, and domestic violence; food aid has been reduced in Lebanon.
- With all of the focus on the Westgate attack in Nairobi, Kenya faces a large, neglected challenge. According to the NGO Maisha e.v, one of every three women in Kenya has experienced gender-based violence -- a far higher percentage than the 1 in 10 worldwide.
- The situation between Sudan and South Sudan is deteriorating. Jerome Tubiana provides excellent perspective from the borderlands between the two countries.
- Malawi President Joyce Banda dissolved her entire 25 member cabinet amid a massive corruption scandal. Kim Dionne at haba na haba sets the context and challenges in the run-up to next May's elections.
- A view of Mogadishu -- Tristan McConnel narrates a phenomenal slide show of Pete Muller's photographs from a recent trip to the city.
The U.S. had two dramatic efforts to capture high priority terrorist targets, one in Libya and another in Somalia. The snatch and grab operation in Libya was a seeming success (though I'm wondering if last night's kidnapping of the Libyan Prime Minister was retaliation). The Somalia mission, coming one day after the 20th anniversary of the Black Hawk Down episode, was aborted when the team recognized that there was no way they could take their target alive, given heavy resistance and potential civilian casualties.
The question that emerges from all this is: what the hell is the United States doing? Ok, maybe I phrased this badly, but I'm wondering if our strategy of drone and/or grab is a winning strategy in the long-run? If a fractured Somali or Libyan state is the heart of these countries' problems, do our efforts hinder or help national reconciliation? From what I'm reading about Somalia, I worry that the United States once again has a military solution for a problem that ultimately requires considerable finesse and diplomacy. This week's links speak to the errors and issues with the Somalia mission and what it all means...
We continue to degrade the U.S. brand, weakening America's ability to serve as a force for attraction around the world. Why would anyone want to emulate this particular crappy model of democracy? In terms of security, 70% of our intelligence community at the NSA and CIA have been furloughed (James Clapper and the WaPo raised the specter of a possible increased threat from terrorism and depending on your view of how active plotters are against America and its interests, you might find this logic persuasive). In terms of doing the nation's international business, staff at U.S. government agencies and federally funded institutions of higher education are furloughed. They are not able to do the nation's business and serve U.S. interests.
I was transfixed this week by the week's events in Kenya, the attacks by Al-Shabaab on the Westgate shopping center that resulted in the deaths of at least 60 people. With friends just a stone's throw away from that mall, it was hard to turn away from that unfolding set of events. So, this week, to give you some context, I've linked a number of stories that try to explain how the attack could have happened, why al-Shabaab appears intent on this kind of action, and what this means for security in East Africa.
At the same time as we have witnessed this horrific tragedy, there appears a positive opening between the United States and Iran, led by its interesting new president Rouhani. While no meeting occurred between the U.S. and Iran occurred at this week's United Nations annual gathering of heads of state in New York, the prospects for progress in this space are better than they have been in a long time.
Beyond this, I link to additional stories on global health, including a new UNAIDS report that shows continued progress on stemming new infections as well a new £1bn pledge from the British government to the Global Fund. Oh, and The Monkey Cage went live on the Washington Post site.
- The international news continues to be dominated by Saturday's terrorist attack at Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The coverage of the attacks in most major newspapers has been excellent (and peppered with first-person reflections) due to the large number of reporters and photojournalists who are based in Nairobi. Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility via Twitter, and Twitter struggled to deactivate its feeds. The immediate demand was the withdrawal of Kenyan troops from Somalia, where they have been assisting AU forces and the interim Somali government since October 2011. More discussion after the jump.
- Taliban suicide bombers attacked a Christian church in Peshawar yesterday, killing at least 78. It's the most deadly attack in the history of Pakistan's Christian community. In Nigeria, government officials announced that Islamist group Boko Haram was responsible for 159 deaths in Borno State, one of the three northeastern states currently under a state of emergency. Boko Haram also allegedly launched a major attack in the capital, Abuja, but eyewitnesses claim that alleged Boko fighters were unarmed squatters.
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel scored a huge victory in elections yesterday. The Christian Democrats' 42 percent of the vote was the strongest conservative showing in over 20 years. There's some background on the election at the Monkey Cage.
After last week's diplomatic overtures on Syria, we've entered a period of relative calm and back to our mixed bag of stories of interest. NPR is running a fabulous series on Brazil in the lead up to the World Cup, which is also timely since the Brazilian president cancelled her plans to visit the United States as a result of U.S. spying on her and other Brazilians, a revelation that came out of the Snowden affair.
In other news, I'm going to link to stories on Chinese extraordinary measures to address pollution, how much
energy electricity your average refrigerator uses, Nathan Jensen's cautionary tale on the peer review process, a story on poverty tourists in South Africa, and more from international politics and academia!
It's late Friday afternoon -- here are a few things worth reading:
If you are like me, you have been transfixed by the unfolding story on Syria, the diplomatic gambit that has forestalled an imminent military strike. Alongside this important news has been the more picayune question of a Syria intervention advocate falsely claiming her academic credentials from my alma mater. Lost in the midst of all this Syria drama is the fact that the United States Men's National Team qualified for the World Cup. In my one vaguely nationalist refrain, we are going to Brazil! Read on about all of these things...