• Peace Corps Removing 340 Volunteers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea

    President Kennedy created "a peace corps of talented men and women" who would dedicate themselves to serving others abroad and making peace in developing countries around the world. Today, Americans serve in President Kennedy’s Peace Corps all over the developing world. There are currently 102 US citizens volunteering in Guinea working in the areas of education, agriculture and health; and 108 volunteers in Liberia and 130 volunteers in Sierra Leone working in education.

    Sadly, on Wednesday of this week, those 340 Peace Corps volunteers were removed from service, as the highly infectious Ebola virus has become a public health emergency in the West African states. According to the World Health Organization, the virus has killed 672 people in the nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

    "This is a major public health emergency. It's fierce, deadly and many of our countrymen are dying and we need to act to stop the spread," Lewis Brown, Liberia's information minister, told Reuters. "We need the support of the international community now more than ever. We desperately need all the help we can get."

    Mike Noyes, head of humanitarian response at Action Aid UK, said people affected by Ebola should be treated with compassion and not criminalized. "Enforced isolation of a whole community is a medieval approach to controlling the spread of disease," he said.

    The White House is hosting a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington (Aug. 4-6) that about 50 African heads of state are expected to attend to discuss trade and investment between the United States and Africa (click here for more).

    Discussion starters:

    1. Should the countries and or communities with cases of the Ebola virus be isolated?
    2. Would you recommend that President Obama extend further significant aid and help to the people of these West African states?
  • #igivehope: The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime promotes awareness of human trafficking

    Today, 30 July 2014 is the first ever United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

    It is just a sad, sad fact that we even need such a day.

    The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is seeking to promote awareness of the global problem of human trafficking by encouraging people across the globe to express their solidarity with the millions of victims of human trafficking by giving back what they had stolen from them: hope.

    The UN is encouraging the use of social media to bring awareness to their campaign by asking that you take and post a photo of yourself forming a heart with your hands – this is the internationally recognized gesture of love, care and friendship – as a symbol of your offering hope to the millions of trafficking victims.

    The UN also suggest using the hashtag #igivehope, when you share the photo with your friends and the world across social media. You can also post your photo on the Blue Heart Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/BlueHeartHT.

    #igivehope 

    Discussion starters:

    1. Will you give hope?
    2. Do these types of social media campaign’s change cultures or awareness and or behaviors?
  • U.S. & African Leaders Summit: August 2014

    The President of the United States has invited African heads of state and government to a Summit meeting in Washington next week. The African Leaders Summit is expected to be the largest event any U.S. President has held with leaders from that continent and is the Obama administration’s attempt to build on the President’s trip to Africa in the summer of 2013. The US President will attempt to strengthen ties between the United States and one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest growing regions.

    President Obama has said, “I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world – partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect.”

    According to the White House the August 4-6 Summit will “advance the Administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people. At the same time, it will highlight the depth and breadth of the United States’ commitment to the African continent, advance our shared priorities and enable discussion of concrete ideas to deepen the partnership. At its core, this Summit is about fostering stronger ties between the United States and Africa.”

    The NGO ONE has created an interesting and difficult quiz about some of the basic knowledge of African countries, politics, geography and leadership needed to pass as an African diplomat. If you were invited to the Summit, do you think you know enough to take an active and informed role in the discussions? Take this quiz and find out:

    http://www.one.org/us/2014/07/28/quiz-could-you-be-a-diplomat-in-africa/

    Discussion starters:

    1. Do you think that the basic content in the ONE quiz should or would be known by the African diplomats?
    2. Do you agree with President Obama’s assessment of the importance of the continent of Africa and the mission of his African summit?

     

  • Globalization: McDonalds restaurants in Japan will stop selling meat produced in China

    Aren’t we all connected in our interdependent global village?

    During recent investigations at Husi Food Co., Ltd, in Shanghai, managers openly confessed that the company has for years been conducting the malpractice out-of-date and moldy meats under tacit approval of senior managers.

    According to Shanghai's food and drug administration, Husi Food sold about 5,100 crates of expired and moldy meat products, including McNuggets, pork patties and beef steaks using, to companies all over the world including McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, 7-Eleven, and Starbucks Corp.

    The Guardian is reporting that McDonald's Japan has announced it will stop importing chicken from China.

    The McDonalds hamburger chain said it would start sourcing all its chicken from Thailand.

    Discussion starters:

    1. What global precautions might be taken to ensure food safety across states?
    2. Is the globalization of food production and consumption on balance a positive or negative for the consumer? What about for McDonalds? 
  • "The world must build toilets to save lives"

    Must we build toilets for a more peaceful world? 

    2.5 billion people across our global village do not have access to a toilet.

     

    The Economist looks at why this matters and what we must do to help (click here for the complete article).

    President Woodrow Wilson wrote, "You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply; with greater vision; with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand."

    Discussion starters:

    1. How might more toilets and sanitation in India or the Congo make for better international relations?
    2. Does human suffering (illnesses), say in South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, affect humans in other parts of the world?

  • Gaza and the Ukraine: It is the shelter of each other that we live

    It's Nelson Mandela International Day

    This day (July 18th Mandela's birthday) was unanimously approved in 2009 by the United Nations General Assembly to honor Mandela and inspire others to carry on his efforts to "take responsibility for making the world a better place, one small step at a time."

    Mr. Mandela lived his life in the spirit of “Ubuntu.” Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, writes, “To me, what makes us human is best summed up in the African concept of Ubuntu, which Desmond Tutu explains as: “I am because you are.” Another way of saying it is the old Irish proverb: “Is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.” This translates as: “It is in each other’s shadow that we flourish.”

    The international headlines on this day in the middle of July are about fierce fighting as Gaza the Israeli ground invasion continues and Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with 295 people on board shot down in an apparent missile strike.

    In an interview in 1991 interview Mandela explains how he rose above hatred and cruelty during his time in prison saying, “The wardens who worked with us were themselves workers…human beings with problems…who were also exploited…they also were victims of the system. One of our objectives was to ensure that we improved relations between ourselves and the wardens…to help them with their own problems. In that way you forget about anything that is negative – like hate. You are dealing with human beings and living in peace with these people. You want them to spread the same message to their own people and in that situation it is very difficult to find room for hate.”

    Discussion starters:

    1. How might the philosophy of “Ubuntu” help us with the fighting in Gaza?
    2. Does Mandela’s example provide us with any guidance regarding the apparent missile strike of the Malaysian Airline flight over the Ukraine? 
  • “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”

    In the New York harbor stands our Lady Liberty with Emma Lazarus’s poem engraved: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of our teeming shore. Send these, the homeless tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 

    Texas Governor Rick Perry recently traveled to the US Mexican border to survey the immigration crisis. Perry argues, “President Obama should make securing the border the top priority in resolving this crisis. To begin with, he should send 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border to support operations until sufficient Border Patrol agents can be hired, trained and deployed.”

    I’ve been watching media coverage of angry Americans in Texas and Arizona waiving signs and yelling slogans, insisting that the refugee children “go home.” As I watch, I wonder where the protester’s parents or grandparents or great grandparents came from? Why did they come to the United States? Perhaps if the protestors only knew their own family histories they might be more generous and welcoming with these desperate children who are fleeing war and economic despair for a shot at hope in the United States.

    Many of the refugees are walking to the United States border from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras (countries that the United States has lost interest in since the days of the Cold War). The percentage of people living below the poverty line is 54 percent for Guatemala, 36 percent for El Salvador, and 60 percent for Honduras. The judicial systems in those states are weak, corrupt, and often completely dysfunctional. The opportunities for a life with basic human rights and dignity are few and far between…so they walk to our shores.

    A new Pew Trust survey finds that most Americans favor a U.S. policy to expedite the legal processing of the children.

    Discussion starters:

    1. Should these refugee children pay the price for the social destruction created by Central American elites and militaries, as well as successive US governments?
    2. Why do leaders like Governor Rick Perry seem to be out of step with the desires of most American regarding the refugee children?
  • Israelis launch air strikes as Palestinian militants launch rockets at Israel

    According to the Guardian (click here) “Israel has launched more than 1,300 air strikes since the offensive began, the military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said on Sunday. 

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Sunday that the Israeli army was "prepared for any possibility."

    Palestinian militants have launched more than 800 rockets at Israel, including 130 in the past 24 hours, the Israeli military said. Several Israelis have been wounded, but there have been no fatalities.

    Reuters reports: "Those rockets and the ones unleashed on Sunday were intercepted by the Israeli-built, and partly U.S.-funded, Iron Dome missile defense system that has proved effective against Hamas's most powerful weaponry.

    "No one has been killed by the more than 800 rockets the Israeli military said has been fired since the offensive began, and during Saturday night's barrage, customers in Tel Aviv beachfront cafes shouted their approval as they watched the projectiles being shot out of the sky."

    Discussion starters:

    1. Does the Israeli “Iron Dome” missile defense system mean that the Israelis have less incentive to negotiate with Hamas?
    2. What role (if any) should other countries play in the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis? 
  • US and German Relations Frayed over Spying: Is it worth it?

    The German government has demanded the removal of the top American spy in the country. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s expulsion of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Berlin station chief is seen as a symbolic expression of Germany’s growing anger and mistrust of the United States.

    The decision by to publicly announce the was seen as a highly symbolic expression of the deep anger and hurt that German officials have felt since the exposure of the American espionage operations.

    The expulsion of ranking intelligence officers from a foreign country was a common practice during the Cold War, but it is a symbolic diplomatic move almost never made by allies.

    On Thursday, July 10, 2014, Chancellor Merkel said, "Viewed with good common sense, spying on friends and allies is a waste of energy. In the cold war it may have been the case that there was mutual mistrust. Today we live in the 21st century."

    In the past year, President Obama has remarked that “I am the end user of this kind of intelligence. If I want to know what Chancellor Merkel is thinking, I will call Chancellor Merkel.”

    Discussion starters:

    1. Do these spy revelations about widespread American intelligence operations in Germany gravely damage relations between close allies?
    2. Does it make sense to tap Chancellor Merkel’s phone to gather information or does such spying only cause serious the political damage with real gain?
  • Emma Watson takes on a new role at the United Nations

    UN Women, the United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, announced the appointment of British Actress, Emma Watson, as Goodwill Ambassador.

    In her role as ambassador for UN Women, Ms. Watson will promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. Watson will work with UN Women's HeForShe campaign, which promotes gender equality and seeks to provide greater opportunities for women and girls around the world.

    Watson is a recent English literature graduate of Brown University has dedicated her efforts to supporting women promoting girl’s education in Bangladesh and Zambia.

    Watson joins a long list of celebrities who have been or are still involved with the United Nations including Angelina Jolie, Stevie Wonder, Drew Barrymore, Charlize Theron, and Mia Farrow.

    Discussion starters:

    1. Why might the United Nations employ celebrities like Watson, Jolie and Farrow?
    2. Does Watson’s involvement in the HeForShe campaign make you want to participate in that campaign? 
  • International power and a state's internal health

    What percentage of your paycheck do you spend on food? Do you buy the least expensive food or do you spend more for healthy and nutritious foods?

    Fascinating map from Vox (click here) shows how much families spend on food around the world. The average American spends $2,273 per year. The average German spends $2,481 per year. The average French person spends $3,037 per year. The average Norwegian spends a whopping $4,485 per year on food.

    How might this variation in spending on food affect the people within specific countries? Well, we Americans are spending far less on food than we did twenty years ago. While that may mean than Americans have more money to spend on things other than food, it also means that many are not spending enough on purchasing healthy foods. Low-income kids in America consume an inordinate amount of fast food. Among many other health issues such a poor diet means stunting – not growing very tall. Fast food may be cheap but it is very bad for height.

    According to a recent post from Professor Robert Reich, “the Netherlands has the world’s tallest people, with an average male height of over 6 feet and average female of 5’7.” That’s no accident. People in wealthy countries are on-average significantly taller than people in poor ones, because they’re more likely to have better nutrition as kids.”

    Average heights have grown steadily across Europe since the 1960s, but the United States hasn't gotten taller. European countries have done a good job ensuring all their citizens get adequate nutrition; Americans have not.

    Discussion starters:

    1. What might the implications of poor diet and an unhealthy population mean for the United States power position in international relations?
    2. What might the American policymakers do to help create a healthier and stronger society? 
  • Is there a connection between you and the virginity sex trade in Phnom Penh?

    Abigail Haworth recently wrote an in-depth and important piece on the ugly market of virginity sex in Cambodia. The horrible market for virgin sex is in part driven by rich and powerful men who coerce desperate mothers into selling their daughters' innocence (click here for the full article). 

    Haworth retells the tragic story of Vannith Uy and her daughter, Chamman. When Vannith and her family arrived in Phnom Penh from the countryside, they had dreams of a better life. Vannith planned to open a hair and beauty salon in the Cambodian capital.

    "But my family could find only dirty jobs," she says. "I wanted a place where my daughter and I could work together." So Uy did something she describes as her "only choice." For about $1500 she sold her 18-year-old daughter Chamnan's virginity to a wealthy local man. Why did Uy see this as her “only choice?”

    Cambodia is a poor country with three-quarters of the population living below or just above the poverty line. Economic opportunities are especially dire for women, as they earn an average of only 27 cents for every dollar earned by a man, according to the Asian Development Bank.

    The vast garment industry is the biggest source of female employment in Cambodia. But wages are so pitiful at around $100 per month that workers are often drawn into sex work on the side. Many women see it as their only option.

    Discussion starters:

    1. Is there a connection between the wages paid in the garment factories in Cambodia and you?
    2. Does the low cost item purchased in a Walmart in Texas in some way contribute to the virginity sex market in the Cambodian capital? 
  • International Dust: From the Sahara Desert in East Texas we are all linked

    For a few days in early July, the skies in Tyler, Texas looked a bit strange…hazy… they were bit brownish in color.

    Was it wildfire smoke? Was it air pollution from the commuters in Dallas area?

    Well, no. It was actually dust from the Sahara Desert.

    Yes! Dust all the way from Africa.

    Of course, the owner of Ed’s Car Wash & Detail in Tyler was happy with the business. The dust and winds in the East Texas skies made perfect combination for Mr. Edward Starks’ car wash business. “Business has increased due to dust,” said Starks.

    It happens a few times a year. The dust stirred up from the Sahara makes it all the way to the U.S. in the upper level global winds.

    The inter-tropical convergence zone, or ITCZ, moves from East to West over the Atlantic Ocean. As the dust from the Sahara makes it into the upper levels of the atmosphere, it can easily be transported from Africa, across the Atlantic Ocean, to Tyler, Texas…to your town in Anywhere US.

    Mr. Chris Rasure, a scientist with the Mobile STEM Lab at The University of Texas at Tyler said,  “The Sahara desert is the major source of mineral dust for the entire earth, and 60 to 200 million tons of dust per year comes from the Sahara alone.” 

    Discussion starters:

    1. What are the environmental implications of such a phenomena?
    2. What are the international relations issues illustrated in the skies made hazy by dust from the Sahara Desert?