• Cyber War of Words between Washington and Beijing

    Today, Chinese government officials are alleging cyber attacks (hacking attempts) from the United States (click here for more).

    "The defense ministry and China military online websites have faced a serious threat from hacking attacks since they were established, and the number of hacks has risen steadily in recent years," said a ministry spokesman, Geng Yansheng, earlier today.

    Earlier this month the United States said that a Chinese military unit is probably behind a series of hacking attacks mostly targeting America (click here for more).

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Do you think that the US and China hacking dispute adds to diplomatic tension between China and the US?

    2.     What do these hacking related charges do to Chinese suspicions about Washington's motives in Asia and arguments over issues from trade to human rights?



  • Our Global Village Mourns the passing of Stéphane Hessel: A Great Champion of Human Rights

    French author Stéphane Hessel's wife, Christiane Hessel-Chabry, told France's AFP news agency on Wednesday, that the 95-year-old writer had died Tuesday night in Paris (click here for more).

    Hessel led a long, courageous, and storied life. According to the Guardian one French magazine stated: "Stéphane Hessel, dead? It's hard to believe. He seemed to have become eternal, the grand and handsome old man."

    Hessel was a member of the French Resistance during the Second World War.  He was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to concentration camps where he was tortured, sentenced to death, and managed to escape (click here for more).

    Hessel was a great champion of human rights!

    Of note to international scholars, Hessel worked along side Eleanor Roosevelt in drafting and editing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.  Today, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said, "Stéphane Hessel was a towering figure in the human rights world. His close involvement with the team who drafted the Universal Declaration is enough by itself to earn him a place of honor in global history. But he went on to do so much more, and kept contributing to the advancement of human rights well into his 90s."

    Above: An English translation of "Indignez-Vous!"

    In October 2010, Hessel published "Indignez-Vous!" - a pamphlet that urged young people to seek justice by peaceful rebellion against what he termed the dictatorial forces of international capitalism (click here for more).

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Why do you think Hessel's pamphlet, "Indignez-Vous!," served to ignite the Occupy movement in Europe and the United States?

    2.     Why do you think that some people came from World War II with a realist outlook while Hessel emerged from the Nazi concentration camps an idealist? 

  • A Long Way to Go: International Women's Day 8 March 2013

    The annual celebration of International Women's Day will be Friday, 8 March this year. On International Women's Day our global village celebrates the economic, political, and social achievements of women past, present, and future.

    Above: Park Geun-hye at her inauguration as South Korean president. 

    In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women's Day is a national holiday. How will you celebrate women in your community? International Women's Day honors the work of women, celebrates women's success, and reminds of inequities still to be redressed.

    Sadly, gross gender inequalities remain and entrenched part of our culture. While ever small, the number of female leaders serving as heads of state has declined in recent years.  An unprecedented total of twenty served during late 2010 and mid-2012.

    There are currently 193 Member States of the United Nations. Depending on state recognitions and how one defines statehood, there are about 200 (plus or minus) independent states in our global village.  Of those 200 states 17 are led by women.

    1.     Argentina's President is Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

    2.     Australia's Prime Minister is Julia Gillard.

    3.     Bangladesh's Prime Minister is Sheikh Hasina.

    4.     Brazil's President is Dilma Rousseff.

    5.     Costa Rica's President is Laura Chinchilla Miranda.

    6.     Croatia's Prime Minister is Jadranka Kosor.

    7.     Denmark's Prime Minister is Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

    8.     Germany's Chancellor is Angela Merkel.

    9.     Iceland's Prime Minister is Johanna Sigurdardottir.

    10. Jamaica's Prime Minister is Portia Simpson Miller.

    11. Liberia's President is Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

    12. Lithuania's President is Dalia Grybauskaite.

    13. Kosovo's President is Atifete Jahjaga.

    14. Malawi's President is Joyce Banda.

    15. South Korea's President is Park Geun-hye.

    16. Thailand's Prime Minister is Yingluck Shinawatra.

    17. Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister is Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Would more women world leaders mean a different world or do you expect relations among nations would remain pretty much the same?

    2.     What might these women leaders bring to the world stage that men do not?



  • Stealing Data: The Chinese Government Appears to be Making Cyber Attacks on US Government and US Firm's data

    In his February State of the Union Address President Obama said, "Just as jobs and businesses can now race across borders, so can new threats and new challenges. No single wall separates East and West."

    The New York Times is reporting that cyber threats and hacking into US government and corporation's sensitive data may be coming from the Chinese government/military (click here for more).  Reports indicate that the Chinese government may have been responsible for the cyber infiltration of dozens of American companies  (click here for more). 

    Cyber attacks and hacking have increased Obama administration worries that the engines of U.S. production and online life, such as banks, energy pipelines, and water supplies, could be in danger of a cyber attack that could cripple them and even lead to loss of life.

    The Obama administration itself has embraced and supported the building and rebuilding of the US digital infrastructure.  President Obama says, "cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation" and that "America's economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cyber security" (click here for more).

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Do you think US intelligence officers today need to be as focused on the computer servers in Shanghai as they once were on the nuclear command centers in Moscow during the cold war?

    2.     While there were no signs that Chinese hackers tried to disable the American any of the American infrastructure is this a concern because it is possible?


  • Learning Other's Dances: The Soft Power of Images and Film

    It is incredibly difficult to stop an idea, but an image (especially a digital image) is almost impossible to stop. Edward Bulwer-Lytton penned the famous quote, "the pen is mightier than the sword." To which General Douglas MacArthur retorted, "Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons." Today the digital image on Facebook or a film that goes viral indeed appears to be mightier that the sword.

    Filmmaker Jehane Noujaim claims that film and images are not only powerful tools of war but can and should be used to build bridges of peace for our global village. In this TED Talk, Noujaim explains her goal to bring the world together for one day using the power of film.

    Noujaim says, "we need to learn each other's dances."

    In her most recent work, The Square, Noujaim reveals the events in Egypt's Tahrir Square as the Hosni Mubarak regime fell (click here for more).

    The Square won the Sundance Audience Award in the World Cinema Documentary category earlier this year, and Noujaim and her team are currently seeking funding for the post-production of the film (click here for more).

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Might a globally shared film experience help us learn each other's dances and bring us closer together?

    2.     What power(s) does the camera have that the gun does not? 


  • Direct Action: Japanese Officials Appeal to Dutch Officials to Halt the Sea Shepherd

    The Dutch-registered ship called the "Sea Shepherd" made a risky effort to sabotage this season's whale hunt last Friday. The Sea Shepherd moved in unusually close an to two Japanese ships in the Antarctic Ocean risking crew and ships to save the whales lives (click here for more).

    Tensions rose as the Japanese ship later rammed into the Sea Shepherd (only minor damage and no injuries were reported - click here for more).

    How do we protect the whales? The domestic consumption of whale meat and the political power associated with that interest keep whaling ships at sea.

    The Japanese government is calling on the government of the Netherlands to take action to prevent the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society from interfering with Japanese whaling ships.

    Japanese fisheries minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the Sea Shepherd direct actions "threaten legitimate whaling activities and the lives of crew members."

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Do concerned citizens take direct - even hostile and at times dangerous - action to protect these majestic creatures?

    2.     Or should concerned citizens and organizations work within government and intergovernmental organizations to save the whales from slaughter? 


  • The Rivers that Link our Global Village Are Becoming 21st Century Geopolitical Flashpoint

    Rivers link our global village. Rivers are mighty ribbons of life that often flow easily across state lines and link people without regard for culture, religion, or language.  Rivers such as the 3,000-mile long Mekong and the mighty Brahmaputra are the lifeline for millions of people and completely ignore state borders we humans draw on maps (click here for more). 

    Speaking in Russia in July of 2012, Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang said water is likely to become a geopolitical flashpoint commodity like oil (click here for more). 

    The Mekong, for example, links the people in the heart of all South-East Asia with a vast and rich biodiversity similar to that of the Amazon. The Mekong stretches to the South China Sea and is home to the world's largest freshwater fisheries, about 700 different native species. Through fishing, aquaculture and irrigation, it sustains more than 65 million people (click here for more).

    What happens if one state decides to dam up such a river?

    The ever-expanding Chinese economy needs power. Thus, China has become the world's largest dam builder. Chinese dams - five megadams have already been built, eight are underway - are raising alarms of great concern in India, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam (click here for more).

    Critics claim that China's construction of dams threatens complex ecosystems. The Indians blame the Chinese dams for flash floods that resulted from unannounced discharges of water in the Himalayas.  Scientists say that the dams will/are drastically changing the natural flood-drought cycle and are blocking the transport of sediment. Entire communities must be resettled. Communities have suffered from lack of adequate compensation, problems with food security, and increased incidence of disease.

    Vietnamese President Sang said, "It would not be over-exaggerating ... to view the water resources of the 21st century as the oil of the 19th and 20th centuries."

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Do you agree with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang's warning of increasing tensions over water?

    2.     How will the international community govern dam construction and stream adjustments by states such as China in a way to meet the ever-growing and real concerns of downstream states?


  • Aung San Suu Kyi's Courage and Sacrifice for Democracy and Respect for Human Rights in Burma

    When asked, not long ago, to rate Burma's openness and democracy on a scale of 1 to 10, Aung San Suu Kyi said, "we're trying to get to 1."

    Suu Kyi has arguably become our village's most well known political prisoner. She was placed under house arrest in 1989 where she remained until last year. Today she serves as a beacon of hope for human rights and democracy around the world.

    This video from the BBC (published on Sep 30, 2012) provides us with an excellent summary of Aung San Suu Kyi's courage and sacrifice.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     So what exactly is a political role model? Is it someone we relate to, someone we aspire to be, someone we just greatly admire?

    2.     What should the United States do to promote the burgeoning democracy and the protection of human rights in Burma?



  • Shining City on the Hill: UN High Commissioner pays tribute to civil rights activist Rosa Parks

    Early in American history, minister John Winthrop delivered a sermon known as "A City Upon a Hill" in which he urged his fellow colonists to establish a commonwealth he hoped would serve as an example that the rest of the world would one day emulate. President Reagan also referenced this sermon calling the United States a "shining city on the hill."

    On Thursday, December 1, 1955, in downtown Montgomery, Alabama.  Rosa Parks, "the first lady of civil rights", refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person as required by the segregation law at the time.

    This week the United Nations Human Rights chief Navi Pillay marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Parks saying, "that simple act of defiance became a defining moment in the Civil Rights Movement in America and inspired anti-racism movements around the world."

    Pillay said, "The determined and principled stand taken by Mrs. Parks against segregation should serve as a powerful motivation for all of us as we combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."

    "In an increasingly globalized world, we are more often than not exposed to prejudice, stereotypes, ignorance and xenophobia," Pillay said. "We should face the challenges up front, as exemplified by Rosa Parks. When we share the story of this brave woman to our children and future generations, it is also essential to nurture the spirit of tolerance, multiculturalism and the richness of diversity" (click here for more).

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Does the United States serve as the society that Winthrop and Reagan envisioned?

    2.     Do you think that the actions of Mrs. Parks and the many others in the American Civil Rights movement help provide an example of motivation to fight racism and racial discrimination around the world? 


  • 101 Year Old Runner to Raise Awareness of Crimes Against Women

    In 1911, when Fauja Singh was born in a Punjab, India, the British government, ruled his country.  Attitudes then and laws about basic human rights - women's rights - were very different from today. Today, Singh is 101 and is the world's oldest runner.  Singh is set to run two more marathons (26.2 miles) in the coming months to support women's rights.

    Singh say that he will be retiring from marathon running, but he will not do so before raising awareness for the rights and security of women (click here).  "I am pained to listen that my daughters, grand daughters and great grand daughters are no longer safe," said Singh (click here for more).

    Singh is referring - in part - to the brutal attack in India on 16 December 2012. Indian police say a 23-year-old victim and her friend boarded the bus after seeing a movie. The bus turned out to be off-duty and was being driven by a group of men who, police say, attacked the couple and then took turns raping the woman. They also penetrated her repeatedly with a metal bar, causing massive internal injuries. The two were eventually dumped on the roadside. The woman died two weeks later in a Singapore hospital (click here for more). This horrible crime ignited national protests all across India and an international debate about the treatment of and attitudes about women.

    While some protesters are calling for the death penalty for the six accused men, Singh, a follower of Sikhism, is calling for an open and larger conversation about the need for social and cultural change.

    1.     How might international athletes and other leaders set the tone for social and cultural change?

    2.     Why is it that the victims are too often blamed for their own attacks and violations of these most basic human rights?


  • White House White Paper: Execution by Air Lawful if...

    The United States is operating a CIA drone base in Saudi Arabia.  The drones from that base have been used to conduct a controversial assassination campaign in neighboring Yemen (click here for more).

    Earlier this week, NBC made public a administration white paper dating from 2011 justifying the killing of U.S. citizens who have joined al-Qaida and who pose an "imminent threat of violent attack" against the United States.

    The President of the United States may order a "targeted killing of a U.S. citizen who has joined al-Qaida or its associate forces." According to a white paper from the White House such an order "would be lawful under U.S. and international law" (click here for the white paper).

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    The Obama administration has already exercised this power.  In September 2011, President Obama ordered the killing in a drone strike of Anwar Awlaki, a known al-Qaida leader and a U.S. citizen living in Yemen. Awlaki was killed along with another U.S. citizen Samir Khan (click here for more).

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Do you agree with senior Obama officials including Attorney General Eric Holder and John Brennan, Obama's top terrorism adviser and his current nominee to lead the CIA, that the president is and should be vested with this power?

    2.     Is this power likely to become permanent? Is this power only vested in the current president for the special case of al-Qaida or might future presidents who may have more menacing plans use it? 


  • Japanese Whaling: How Domestic Actors Influence International Problems

    The international community has many actors: states, IGOs, NGOs, MNCs, individuals, and even strong domestic actors. Domestic actors often shape policy and relations.

    In the United States Agribusiness is a domestic actor that has a huge impact on many policies - from American diets to the allocation of corn via the USAID humanitarian programs around the world. Much of our global food is determined by the 1,770-page, almost $300-billion Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (commonly known as the "farm bill"). The US farm bill supported by domestic actors - special interests - creates a specific policy with wide ranging and far reaching implications.

    The Japanese people also have a similar and strong domestic actor that is shaping Japanese policy. The Japanese state allocates annual subsidies for the whaling industry, channeled through the Institute for Cetacean Research, of ¥782m ($125,521,948 US dollars). The Japanese taxpayers have spent about ¥30bn ($323,428,500 US dollars) to support whaling between 1987 and 2012.

    While the International Whaling Commission (IWC) imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986, the ban has a loophole that allows the Japanese to catch up to about 1,000 whales annually.

    Why are the Japanese spending so much to support whaling?

    Despite decades of of opposition from the international community, the Japanese state continues to use taxpayer support to support the killing of whales.

    Like the US farm bill subsidies for corn, the influence wielded by special agribusinesses lobbyist on politicians keeps the Japanese state from abandoning its whaling program. Despite years of opposition and the remarkable fact that even Japanese consumers are not buying whale meet the killing continues.  A Nippon Research Centre report states that whale meat consumption has fallen to about 1% of its 1960s peak.

    The NGO International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), has release the results of a comprehensive study (that drew on Japanese government data) to build a case against the use of millions of dollars in public subsidies to prop up the industry amid a dramatic decline in consumption of whale meat (ef="http://gu.com/p/3dhxa">click here for more).

    Above: IFAW's Patrick Ramage at a whale meat stall at the Tskijii fish market standing by a sign displaying various cuts of whale meat.

    The IFAW analysis (click here) of the economics of the Japanese whaling industry highlights three striking findings. First, the Japanese whaling industry has relied on taxpayer subsidies for more than 20 years and is no longer supported by the Japanese people. Secondly, that a majority of Japanese are indifferent to whaling and have no interest in eating whale meat. And third, the industry of responsible whale watching provides a much more profitable and attractive alternative for the coastal communities with long cultural ties to whales. 

    Discussion starters:

    1.     How might the international community help the Japanese government change these harmful policies?

    2.     Do the domestic actors (agribusiness) have too much power in the area of international environmental issues?


  • Fifty years of Embargo for Castro's Cuba

    In this recent video we hear Fidel Castro say, "Fifty years of blockade [embargo] and they [the United States] haven't been successful.

    Castro's Cuba is the only communist state in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba is home to over 11 million people who have suffered greatly over the centuries as Americans and Europeans brought slavery and wars to the Caribbean's largest island.

    Fidel Castro led a "revolution" in Cuba from 1959 until his resignation in 2008. On January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro entered the capitol city of Havana a liberating hero. An outraged United States imposed an embargo against all trade and travel to the island. That embargo is still in place today.

    The Cuban people have done relatively well under Castro's leadership. In specific, the state controlled agricultural and public health systems have been recognized by the World Health Organization as a "model for the world."

    Fidel Castro has handed power off to his brother (Raul) but his legacy will long dominate the country.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     With the Cold War threats long gone why does the United States continue to keep the fifty-year-old embargo in place?

    2.      Do you expect the long adversarial relationship with the United States to change in President Obama's second term?