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The Climate Is Changing, and So Should Its Message

Climate change, and the campaign surrounding it, has evolved significantly over the last decade. Just look at its name: it went from “global warming” to “climate change” and now there are suggestions to call it “global weirding,” “pollution death,” or (my personal favorite) “atmosphere cancer.” The way in which it has been framed has evolved as well. It has gone from an environmental issue to a public health issue to a political issue, a representation of a deep-seated ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans. 

And yet, despite all these changes, only 40% of Americans view climate change as a major threat. Clearly, the way in which climate change is being framed is not working to convince the general public. The climate is changing, and so should its messaging.

Latin Diaspora, US Southern Border, and... China??

It would be much easier to move the US southern border further south to where it is only about five hundred miles wide rather than continuing the argument over the two-thousand-mile-wide US-Mexican border. Or, since we are pouring so much money and resources into assisting Central American States with their problems, maybe we should just move the effective border to the Panama Canal and get it over with. After all, the canal is only forty-eight miles long and would be much easier (and cheaper) to secure and manage as a border. So we need a North American Federal States system that stretches from the Panama Canal to the North Pole. But how does China influence this idea?

If Mexico, Canada, and the Central American States can be brought into a larger federal system, and can give their citizens representation in that federal union like the rest of us and tax them like the rest of us, it would give us a bigger voice in their States than we have now. And since we are already asssisting them with numerous financial aid packages and programs and giving them effective US citizenship rights anyway, then we should make the North American Federal States official. At least we would get something back for the influx of a large Latin diaspora wanting so desperately to be in the US, to be safe, secure, and contributing US citizens: NAFS citizens.

Then, with a larger federal system, we could more easily prevent China from becoming the next all-powerful global hegemonic state. As it stands today, the US will lose out to China in the global economy as China matures economically and politically. We simply do not have the numbers to be competitive against a mature Chinese economy, nor against a stronger European Union, nor a Eurasian Economic Confederation, nor a strong African Union—all are or will be larger than the US today.

No Sanctuary in Sanctions

Economic sanctions are increasingly being used to promote the full range of American foreign policy objectives. Yet all too often sanctions turn out to be little more than  expressions of U.S. preferences that hurt American economic interests without changing the target's behavior for the better.

Fifteen years later this quote from a Brookings policy brief on the topic of economic sanctions still stands true. Economics sanctions have a long history of being used by the US and international community to reprimand states for their actions or to enact change in national policies. While sanctions are seen as an effective policy tool, how successful are they at actually enacting the change countries hope to see? 

The textbook example of sanctions and their effects on a nation is that of Iran. Ever since the state began its nuclear program in 1967, sanctions have been placed upon, removed from, and reinstated against Iran. The approaching July 20th deadline for a new agreement between the P5+1 countries (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China) and Iran over current sanctions has once again brought international attention to the issue. 

Both sides in the debate want different things out of a new agreement. While the international community, especially the US, continually favors applying sanctions, Iran wants sanctions to be lifted and its nuclear rights to be guaranteed. Iranian representatives at a recent debate stressed how the US must stop its “illegal and irrational” stand in the negotiations.

UN Peacekeeping in Syria and Iraq: Why not?

UN Peacekeepers at Work

"Do you see UN Peacekeeping as a viable option to help solve the humanitarian crises in Syria and Iraq?” I asked Hervé Ladsous, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. Couldn’t UN Peacekeepers help remedy the enormous humanitarian dilemma that has resulted from these two crises-- with millions now suffering from a shortage of food and clean water?

“The answer to your question is no,” stated Mr. Ladsous, without even the slightest hesitation. “We wish we could help the people suffering, but the magnitude of the two crises is simply much too large for the UN to handle.”

It was at that point I found myself disagreeing with one of the world’s leaders in peacekeeping. For if we wish to help solve two of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history, UN Peacekeepers must be involved.

They must be involved because they are undoubtedly the best and most well-trained peacekeeping group in the entire world. They are experts at delivering supplies to those who need them, and quickly. They are adept at helping to mend differences between ethnic groups, often healing situations that many had previously thought were beyond repair. They remain 100 percent committed to their missions no matter the circumstance--some even paying the ultimate price in a concerted effort to help make the world a better place.

Now, I understand that some of you may be looking at me sideways at this point, and are thinking of the various studies that have recently come out declaring that UN Peacekeeping is only marginally effective, if that. You probably want an answer for some of the UN Peacekeeping’s failures--like the Rwanda catastrophe in 1994 or Kosovo’s bloody civil war in 1999, and you deserve one.

The Debate on UN Funding

$1.5 billion. That was the amount of the United States' debt to the United Nations at the beginning of the 2009 fiscal year. Of that, over $1.3 billon was for peacekeeping operations. This put the US at the top of the UN collections list.

In 2010 the US satisfied a significant portion of its debt to the UN, paying more than $500 million owed for peacekeeping and other UN operations. This was a significant feat at the time; the newly Republican House had threatened to withhold funding for the UN, which they perceived as a waste.

Why does the US’s contribution to the UN, and more specifically peacekeeping, matter?

Peacekeeping has emerged as an integral part of the UN; it is also the most scrutinized arm of the International Governmental Organization (IGO). While some of the most polarizing examples of UN peacekeeping operations are failures, such as those in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, many other peacekeeping missions have been successful.

In addition to its peacekeeping efforts, the UN also helps war-ravaged countries rebuild and close the chapter of conflict. Peacekeeping and building efforts have been instrumental in reconstructing dozens of countries around the world.

FIFA: For the Game. For the World.

A mural of Mario Balotelli outside of the San Siro

Soccer (football) is the beautiful game. As an American this might sound strange, but I am thoroughly convinced that no sport trumps soccer in its capacity to inspire and connect people from different parts of the world. FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, is tasked with keeping the game vibrant, fair, and accessible so that everyone can enjoy it – their motto being For the Game. For the World.

Their charge is far from simple. FIFA governs 209 national soccer associations, with each member nation assigned to one of FIFA’s six regional confederations. For those keeping count, this means that FIFA has more member states than the United Nations, since FIFA recognizes 23 non-sovereign polities as nations. The fact that football is such a dearly held treasure for humankind – and consequently a lucrative business for the wealthy – means that FIFA’s conduct is felt, scrutinized, and often critiqued.

I feel that FIFA is an organization worth some thought, particularly for its function as a supranational government. It has attracted businessmen from the world over, all of whom look to capitalize on the prestige and profits of club teams. Lastly, and possibly most intriguingly for me, FIFA is very intimately tied to and affected by social currents in every corner of the world – racism, colonialism, homoantagonism, neoliberalism, globalization, and more can all be seen in the history of the teams and the organization.

Hey FIFA, Which Team Are You Playing For?

FIFA, and subsequently the World Cup, has received criticism from many for its corruption, human rights violations, and the problems it has caused for many residents of host countries. After writing about this last week, I admit that I was left with some deep-seated resentment of FIFA, and the World Cup by association. Having never been much of a soccer fan, I had no problem boycotting the games, taking what I felt to be some sort of moral high ground.

But then I heard about how women in Iran were openly watching the Iran-Argentina game in public alongside men, not only to show support for their country but also to protest a law banning women from entering most sporting events. As a woman of Persian descent, I was instantly filled with pride; I was also struck by the role the World Cup had played in this small but significant event.

Soccer brings the world together; there is no doubt about that. And since it is the “UN of Football,” FIFA has the power and influence to make incredible, important changes. In what ways has it already done this, and in what ways can it improve? 

After Tragedy: Rejecting the Option for Destruction

Israel Palestine Conflict Kidnapping Murder Khdeir Fraenkel Shaar Abbas Abu Aisha

Last Monday brought a devastating conclusion to the 18-day search for three missing teenagers in Israel with the discovery of the bodies of Naftali Fraenkel, 16; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Eyal Yifrach, 19. Tens of thousands attended the  funeral, and the international community echoed the nation’s grief; Barack Obama said that as a father, he could not imagine the pain of the parents. Yet as a world leader, he urged restraint in Israel’s response, encouraging Israel and the Palestinian Authority to work together in pursuing justice and to “refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon suggested that “this heinous act by enemies of peace aims to further entrench division […] and to widen the conflict. It must not,” he asserted, “be allowed to succeed.”

Months after American-brokered peace talks broke down, their warnings against provoking escalation went unheeded.

Thailand: The Story That Flew the Coup

The international media has a tendency to focus on the news stories that will garner the greatest attention from a given audience. Events such as the ISIS declaration of a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria and the ongoing World Cup in Brazil have taken up headlines within recent weeks and are likely to stay in that spot. So what happens to the stories that go unnoticed?

One example of a story that has flown under the radar in recent weeks is the situation in Thailand. On May 22nd the Thai military led a coup after mounting protests against the elected government over accusations of corruption and factional violence. Following the military takeover the international community diverted attention from the issue, afraid of what effects the move could have upon the region and even the world. 

Global Ocean Commission: "Our Oceans Are in Decline"

Pollution in Our Oceans

"Plastic is everywhere in the ocean."

"87% of the world’s marine fish stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted."

These are just two of a number of very troubling statements concerning our world’s oceans, as outlined in a report released last Tuesday by the Global Ocean Commission. The report, which comprehensively details the issues that pose a threat to the health of our oceans, asks that countries cease turning a blind eye to the immeasurable harm that they inflict regularly. It demands that countries make the rectification of our oceans’ health an immediate priority, or else face the risk of causing irreversible damage.

The report cites a rising demand for resources, new technological advances, the depletion of fish stocks, climate change, and weak high seas governance as the most prominent reasons for the decline in the health of our oceans. It explains that the world’s immense growth in population-- reaching 7 billion people in November 2011-- has driven the demand for the ocean’s treasure trove of resources to naturally unsustainable levels. It warns that a failure to address climate change would have a calamitous effect on the world’s oceans, potentially wiping out as much as 60% of ocean species by 2050.

The report goes further than simply identifying the root causes of the ocean’s demise; it offers up a series of important steps, most notably Proposals 1 and 2, which would help remedy many of the ocean’s issues.