so many people are about to go on birthright
I just want to go back, period! Oh Tel Aviv Universityyyyyyyyyyy OSP, how I miss you!
dad says that i’m a binge eater and that i should go to the gym
….have i hit rock bottom? i thought that was last fall?
What Can Obama Do for the Labor Movement?
…for a President who has put bolstering the middle class at the center of his agenda, and who owes the unions big time for their contributions and organizing efforts during his reëlection campaign, the onus is on him to do something. But what?
John Cassidy on whether a second term Obama will come through for the unions: http://nyr.kr/Wpq2bG
Yes Tumblr, I’ve been cheating on you with another website. I am writing political blog posts for a website called PolicyMic now. I’ll continue using this website for fun stuff, poetry, random writings, etc. and of course as a travel journal hehe :)
CHECK IT OUT PEOPLEEEEE
Changes of Power in the US and China and the Current Controversy on Chinese Currency
The Chinese have seen immense economic growth since Deng Xiaopeng’s economic reforms in 1992, and in the past 10 years under current President Hu Jintao, their economy has quadrupled. However, China did not escape the global recession, and its economy is growing at a much slower pace than it has in the past. Chinese “rightists worry that China’s economic reforms have not gone nearly far enough and that political liberalization is needed to prevent an explosion of public resentment,” The Economist explains. This explosion of public resentment would undoubtedly challenge the Chinese Communist Party in continuing censorship and maintaining control, since protesting has become harder to stifle because of the increasingly powerful influence of social media. Microbloggers continue to relentlessly expose injustices and push for a free press, which would be “a vital ally in the battle against corruption”.
Regarding the US-China relationship, future president Xi hopes for win-win situations and cooperation “on the basis of respect, mutual trust, equity and mutual benefit,” and has called on the US to “refrain from doing anything that might escalate tensions and complicate the situation” in order to improve mixed relations. In the US campaign for the presidency, however, both candidates’ sentiments towards China have proved comparatively sour and even threatening due to China’s management of its currency.
In a China-bashing rampage during the final debate, China’s currency management manipulation was at the forefront of the issues relating to China. President Obama has said he’s been tough on China, citing the fact that China’s currency has appreciated about 11%, adjusted for inflation, and that his administration has urged China to further appreciate its currency, protect US companies’ intellectual property, and has set up a task force “to ensure that all countries are playing by the rules,” while also praising China for its progress.
However, Romney has criticized the current administration for not being tough enough. He said that upon his first day in office, he would label China as a currency manipulator, accusing its government of artificially lowering its exchange rate for an unfair trade advantage. Labeling China as a currency manipulator, which last occurred in 1994, would lead to negotiations about the issue. But because these negotiations are currently taking place anyway, labeling China as a currency manipulator would only damage the US-China relationship and thus both economies.
Such China-bashing and talk of harmful labeling has already caused weariness among Chinese officials, as its state-run news agency Xinhua called it “a ritual” that “negatively impacts China-US relations and leaves Americans with the impression that China is responsible for their country’s decline” and warned that “scapegoating, isolating and vilifying China will hurt both sides.”
The first and second largest economies in the world respectively, the US and China are interdependent on one another, and we simply cannot afford to damage relations with our fourth-largest trade partner. The Asian country’s manufacturing is undeniably key to industry, and its investment in the US has been increasing. Moreover, there are hundreds of thousands of American jobs that are dependent to exports to China. “In the worst case” scenario, economic and foreign policy experts have warned, “it could set off a trade war, leading to falling American exports to China and more expensive Chinese imports.” With so many of our imports coming from China, more expensive Chinese products would be burdensome for American consumers’ pocketbooks and the last thing we need for our painfully slow-recovering economy.
Instead, Romney and Obama should take the Chinese government’s advice of the Chinese government and “acknowledge that engaging with China” rather than vilifying it “will amplify win-win results.” After all, strong trade relationships supplement and build strong economies in our global economy, and “the economic interests of the world’s top two economies are far too intertwined for these economic powers to handle a break up.”
Colombian Government Must Not Forgive Drug Lords High in Power
This week, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - a terrorist drug-trafficking organization - will come together to participate in peace talks aiming to end the war that has claimed thousands of lives since its outbreak in 1964. FARC is entering negotiations claiming that the organization is willing to lay down its weapons. However, the government led by Santos would be wise to disregard this claim, as FARC has shattered its own credibility in the past. It has announced that it detests drug trafficking despite the fact that the organization is “a narcotics powerhouse responsible for more than 60 percent of the cocaine sent to the United States and for vast numbers of murders,” according to a federal indictment, and it denies holding hostages despite the hundreds of families waiting to hear news about their kidnapped loved ones.
Santos must also be wary, as previous negotiations have failed miserably. As a result of peace talks in the late 1990s, past president Andres Pastrana gave FARC a sizable piece of land, which the organization then used for drug trafficking and training troops. This was clearly counterproductive to the goal of creating peace, as FARC, which is widely viewed as a terrorist organization, only gained strength. Moreover, after peace talks in the mid-1980s resulted in a cease-fire, FARC leaders entered politics through the Patriotic Union party. This increased tensions between the government, FARC, and civilians, and hundreds were killed, demonstrating that Colombians are not willing to forgive FARC and they demand retribution.
Despite this, Pastrana says that if the government is “not willing to forgive, the peace process is going to be a failure.” If Santos agrees with Pastrana and decides to essentially forgive FARC in negotiations, “a peace deal would almost certainly include a mechanism for FARC members to avoid prison.” A peace-for-freedom deal would require the powerful leaders of an industry making tens of millions of dollars a year “to actually give it up,” according to the Washington Office on Latin America. More realistically, FARC leaders would continue what they are already doing, albeit they might have to operate underground. The government must not concede to FARC; it must concede to the rule of law.
In doing so, the government also needs to take a look at itself and reform its army practices. In October 2008, 11 men were offered work one day, and a few weeks later, they were found dead and dressed in FARC uniforms, presented to army officials as FARC guerillas. Indeed, the Colombian military has killed up to 3,000 innocent civilians as “false positives,” since cash, promotions, and holidays incentivize members of the military to kill as many guerillas as possible. The army has admitted that some of these victims were not in fact guerillas. However, the justice system, which is compromised by corruption and extortion according to Freedom House, has left a vast majority of those responsible for civilian deaths unpunished, and only a few army officers were fired because of the issue. In addition, the government frequently accuses campaigners, journalists, and victims’ families who seek justice of collaborating with FARC guerilla groups.
If President Santos wants to effectively incite lasting peace, he must not compromise with a terrorist organization or grant its leaders freedom from prison; he must apply rule of law to his country, sentencing both FARC leaders and government military leaders responsible for civilian deaths to retribution.
Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East: Sowing the Seeds for Democracy Development post-Arab Spring
A policy providing incentives for investing in companies run by Arab women in the Middle East would result in a more pluralistic Middle East and encourage post-Arab Spring new democracies to develop. Aiding the economic growth of countries in the region would also improve US foreign relations with Arab countries, and both sides would reap the benefits of an improved business relationship.
As a result of the Arab Spring, the people of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya democratically elected their leadership for the first time in recent history. While these newly elected regimes currently contemplate different means of reform, we must encourage them to develop their democracies, and thus the degree of political rights and civil liberties in the region. “International support is critical,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked at the UN in September. It is in the US’s interest to “help countries in transition find the right path forward.”1
A large discrepancy between the number of educated Arab women and the number Arab women in the workforce currently hampers the economy and political plurality of the countries in the region. Even in Qatar, where women constitute 63% of the university population, they make up only 12% of the workforce and 7% of legislators, senior officials, and managers, according to the UN Statistics Division.2 More often than not, they participate in the economy informally through producing handicrafts, bread baking, “petty commodity trading, selling articles at weekly markets and acting as the middle-woman in transporting goods between rural and urban areas.”
Most of the US government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s current projects are located in the West Bank and Jordan, which are not among the Arab countries experiencing a post-revolution transition. OPIC should expand its projects to include Arab countries with new democracies to encourage their development, which would “help solve critical world challenges and in doing so, advance U.S. foreign policy”. 5 The National Endowment for Democracy, however, has given grants to organizations in Arab transitional democracies, and several have been beneficial to women. They include an association for women’s political participation in Tunisia, a center for feminist studies in Egypt, and a women’s rights advocacy campaign in Iraq.6 Empowering women in the workforce would be another way to help them advance in their equal rights campaign and degree of political involvement, while also supporting the economic development of their countries.
President Obama’s FY 2013 budget includes a section of funding for international programs, part of which “responds to the Arab Spring by supporting the aspirations of people in the Middle East and North Africa, with more than $800 million to assist countries in transition and create incentives for long-term economic, political, and trade reforms.” This spending, the OMB report states, fosters “stability around the world to protect our national security,” while also supporting economic growth both abroad and domestically, as it opens new markets for US businesses and increases trade.7 If the US were to allocate some of this funding to encourage investment in businesses run by Arab women, it would help offset the damage that oil booms tend to do to women’s advancement in the region. Indeed, studies have shown that “when a nation’s oil profits soar, the number of women in the workforce invariably declines the next year.” This has profound consequences on women’s political engagement, as “leaving home and entering the workplace produces greater political awareness and participation among women” as well as a strong force to fight patriarchal norms and restrictions to women’s rights that limit developing democracies.8
A policy that would provide an incentive for investment in companies run by Arab women supplemented by increased funding from the National Endowment for Democracy and expanded OPIC projects in post-Arab Spring countries would encourage new democracies in the Middle East to develop with improved political rights and civil liberties. The policy would also open new markets for US businesses, forging more business relationships similar to the free trade agreement the US currently holds with Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco, and Oman.9 Empowering women economically and encouraging democracy development would benefit US foreign policy and the state of the economy both domestically and abroad.
Research has shown that economic empowerment is one of the most important interventions that help women’s rights. 3 This is exemplified in Saudi Arabia, where women’s economic advancement has led to a moderate winding back of restrictions on women.4
The free trade agreement with Morocco is expected to “increase over US economic activity by $178 million annually” .10
Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for their work in micro-credit, giving loans to poor people in Bangladesh that allowed them to work to bring about their own development. “Micro-credit has proven to be an important liberating force in societies where women in particular have to struggle against repressive social and economic conditions,” according to the Nobel Peace Prize press release.11
1) Clinton, Hillary Rodham, “Remarks at the United Nations Security Council Session On Peace and Security in the Middle East,” US Department of State, September 26, 2012, Accessed October 16, 2012, http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2012/09/198276.htm
2) Davies, Catriona, “Mideast women beat men in education, lose out at work,” CNN, June 6, 2012, Accessed October 18, 2012, http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/01/world/meast/middle-east-women-education/index.html
3) Basu, Moni, “Religion is not the biggest enemy for Arab women, poll finds,” CNN, June 26, 2012, Accessed October 14, 2012, http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/25/world/meast/arab-spring-women/index.html
4) Hoare, Rose, “Saudi female entrepreneurs exploit changing attitudes,” CNN, June 8, 2012, Accessed October 16, 2012, http://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/30/business/saudi-female-entrepreneurs/index.html
5) Overseas Private Investment Corporation, “OPIC in Action,” Accessed October 16, 2012, http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/state.pdf
6) National Endowment for Democracy, “Middle East and North Africa,” Accessed October 18, 2012, http://www.ned.org/where-we-work/middle-east-and-northern-africa
7) The White House, “Department of State and Other International Programs,” Accessed October 16, 2012, http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/state.pdf
8) Shankar, Vedantam, “Petroleum Feeds Patriarchy,” The Washington Post, March 10, 2008, Accessed October 17, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/03/10/ST2008031000272.html?sid=ST2008031000272
9) Shaikh, Abdul Quader, “Bilateral Accords and US Trade with the Middle East: A Track Record of Success,” US Department of Commerce International Trade Administration, Accessed October 14, 2012, http://trade.gov/press/publications/newsletters/ita_0408/middle-east_0408.asp