Saturday, October 13, 2007

Trend

I've noticed, in my first couple of posts, that I'm regurgitating what the major news services are throwing at us. That was not my original intention of creating the blog. I created it so that I could get more in depth into current issues which the media may be covering, or which I just find interesting which relate to Global Economics. I'm having a hard time forcing myself to do it, because I find myself getting distracted, so that's why I've posted so few lately. But - yeah... I really need to do that, not that I really get any compensation or recognition for doing this, but I don't know... it's for my own personal use... but I realize it is out in cyberspace, so anyone can read it...
I'm trying to find my voice in this blog, and I know this post isn't as professional as the rest of them, but at least it gives me some perspective into where I'm at in my life. That is NEVER a bad thing.
Hopefully by morning I'll have another one popped out for you. I have some ideas of what direction to take this, so I'm not being a begging for crumbs that major media decides to place out of for me.
Viva reason.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Historic Day

There are many things I was reading in the news this morning that caught my attention enough to warrant me to write about them.
First, the historic crossing of the demilitarized zone in Korea. North Korean President Kim Jong-Il greeted South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun to his country via President Roh walking across the center of the demilitarized Zone. Here's the story via New York Times. Now, this may not seem to be that big of a deal to most, but to me, it's pretty important and cool. It may be political theatre, but even the superficial can prove to be successful if, once the cameras go off, business can be attended to. The joining of these two countries is decades
Secondly, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced earlier today that he would run for Parliament next year after his term has expired. Here's the story from the Pravda (in English). Now, as much as this is not much of a shock to me, because Mr. Putin would want to keep his power, the question I have is whether or not once his Parliament seat has expired whether or not he will try once again for the presidency. I know that's also everyone else's question. But, since as of now the Russian Constitution permits this, the question will remain.
Lastly, and this one really gets me... the whole Blackwater episode. Here's the story about the Congressional report from wire reports. I'm not quite sure where to start to make sense of this. I like how Congress is acting (seemingly) quickly on this. Just hopefully the remedy will be swift and severe. This is absolutely unacceptable. It is not our troops who are making a bad name for America, it's these rogue vigilantes who are under America's shadow, but lurk more in the darker portions of it. So, as much as it would put more stress on our armed services, Congress should boot out those so called "contract killers" and help get our country back on the right path and gain just a tiny ounce of respect with the rest of the world.

So with that, I will step off my soapbox for today and wish all my readers a happy Tuesday.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Could You Pass A Citizenship Test?

so aNo, this is not one of those online quizzes or a blind link to some sort of wild scheme to pass the naturalization exam, but the New York Times published a story on Friday about how the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Service) has changed the test immigrants take to become citizens. The article says that the test is shifted from factual trivia to practical knowledge. For example, instead of asking a question about who said "Give me liberty or give me death!", it will ask for the name of the Speaker of the House. Answers will appear at the end of the post.



My question to my fellow citizen would be, do you have enough information to pass a citizenship test? In my own experience, I'd like to say yes, but I don't want to be too presumptive. I mean, this is a test about government and how it works. Shouldn't the goal of the citizen be to know the basic facts and process of public administration? Well - the New York Times wanted to know too, so they did an informal poll in Chicago. Quite interesting the responses. As much as I'd like everyone to take their citizen role seriously, it's one of the forgotten roles we all play until it is absolutely called upon. Most of us may go out to the parades of Memorial Day and watch the fireworks of July 4th. Fewer of us show up for the simple civic duty every first Tuesday in November and vote. But it seems as though this civic neglect is cause to some unsettling results. Now if only this test were given every four years, say, to renew your driver's license. But knowing the way beaucracies work, it would turn into something to bar othe people from getting what they want. That idea as a qualification would make it a borderline national ID card, but still, they seemingly are now, anyway.



This amended test was rolled out in January with a pilot program, but now is the time when it is going for its first true challenge tomorrow, on October 1st. Opponents of these changes say that the government is making it oppressively difficult to become a citizen. One opponent, a sociology professor named C.N. Le wrote in his blog, "In summary, the idea behind revamping the citizenship test is the implicit assumption that immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens should have some degree of attachment to predominant American ideals...Ultimately, I have no problems with promoting American ideals -- as long as they are the fundamental ideals upon which this country was founded, rather than “ideals” that have nationalistic or ideological connotations."

Supporters counter these claims by saying that memorizing historical information is too easy to do, thus making the door wide open for mass immigration.

Sadly, I have a lack of scholarly information which would support my claim that many people could not pass the same test. But, there's other non-imperical information which would, like Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" segments of his talk show. Jay Leno would be on a busy city street and asking people general questions about current events or names of current political leaders. Many people fail to name basic questions. Granted, the results are not scientific at all because some people will do just about whatever it takes to get on to television.

So... that's enough for this post. Will return soon with another exciting topic.

Back from Hiatus

Well now that I lost all five of my readers (if I ever really had any...), I'd like to say that I'm back in action. I don't know how well this is going to go, but I'm going to try, anyway. In the last 10 months, I have had a lot of issues to deal with. Most of those have passed, and so here I am, arriving fresh to restart my commentaries.
I will try to blog on schedule, but there is no guarantee of this. I will do my best, and hopefully that is the part that will show through. So, introductions short, let's get back to business!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The One Campaign

There is an organization I'd like to spotlight, and it's called the ONE campaign. They are a nonprofit designated to help relieve poverty all over the world, but most of their work is in Africa. Their mission is two-fold: both poverty and fighting the effect of AIDS.

From their website (www.one.org): ONE aims to help Americans raise their voice as ONE against the emergency of AIDS and extreme poverty, so that decision makers will do more to save millions of lives in the poorest countries.

This really comes down to what our societies value most. At the core of this is fundamental believes that a country cannot control others. The US government spent about $8 billion in foreign aid in 2004 (Source: http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/trade/files/98-916.pdf, page 14.) The majority of which went to "economic growth, agriculture, and trade" ($4.4B), but the next category of "global health" received $2.5 billion in 2004, and the last of "democracy, conflict, and humanitarian" received $1.1 billion. This shows the priorities of this department, and that it is the focus of this government to uphold economic growth as its first priority.

Comparatively, if you look at the percentage of the budget which was allocated to foreign aid versus other countries, there is a wide disparity for what each of these societies value.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

President Ahmadinejad's letter to the Americans


Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written yet another open letter to the American people. This is his second, at least. I know he wrote one a few months ago to President Bush, but it was immediately dismissed. This one, too, has been not well received by the White House, at least according to popular press.

You can read the letter here.


It seems to me that the letter is quite intentional and is misunderstood. If I were in any kind of position, I would at least consider opening talks with Iran. But, that's just me. It seems as though President Ahmadinejad is willing to join some sort of process, and be open to diplomacy. The fact that our government is nonresponsive to it is forseeable, but regrettable. Our diplomatic history in this region is horrible, and this is not helping any.


That's my two cents. Can't say I'm the one calling the shots anyway.
(Note: photo is from CNN's article.)

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

World AIDS Day, Dec. 1


I know this is tomorrow, but I thought I'd write about it before hand.

World AIDS Day was first celebrated 16 years ago, in 1990. The purpose was to bring more awareness to this quick-spreading disease. Since then, science has learned so much about it, and yet we have not come anywhere close to getting it under control.

To date, according to the UN, sixty-five million people around the world have HIV or AIDS. Also, nearly 3 million died of the disease last year (2005).

But, about 4 million new cases developed last year too. There could be many reasons for this, but it could just be because of increased awareness and proper testing.

Two-thirds of the people who have this disease live in sub-Saharan Africa, with about 6.1% of adults having this condition.

There are many groups still trying to garner attention, but the disease is still so stigmatized in most of the world because of its status as a sexually transmitted disease. That alone gives people cause to fear because of its nature apart from normal diseases. But through proper education and awareness, it can be contained and minimized. They say in rehab that acknowledgement is the first step to recovery. This disease is killing millions and not being properly acknowledged.

This is another series I hope to begin, is on global health issues. I will probably focus on AIDS, but there are many other health crises out there.
That is all I have for now, but it's been a good introduction. Have a good day.

Source: UNAIDS Factsheet

Additional resources:
http://health.yahoo.com/experts/hotspots/13396/world-aids-day-understand-the-impact-get-involved
http://www.thebody.com/
http://www.aids.org/
http://www.fightaidsathome.org/

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Poverty is the Worst Form of Violence


As said by Mohandas K. Gandhi, the Indian nonviolence leader.


World poverty is a problem in every country. No one location deals with it the same as the other. There are a few countries who do very well to contain it, and the majority of others who do nothing at all.


To start, there are many forms of poverty. But when all is analyzed, it comes down to whether or not people's basic needs are met. Basic needs are defined as having necessary food, clothing, and shelter. The World Bank is the foremost leader on this issue, being created in 1944 among 44 countries.The United States' leader on poverty data is the US Census Bureau. Europe's poverty data is collected by each individual country, but shares that information with the central EU government.


There is other definitions of poverty too, some of which suggest an imbalance among citizen's wealth. Either way, the idea of poverty is largely a comparative one, which also implies a layer of subjectivity.


I am planning to launch a series of posts designed to look deeper into this very topic. Today is only the introduction.


DEFINITION

As I suggested earlier, poverty is one of the most difficult of topics to define, because it is so subjective and so hard to reason. Currently the US uses a model containing a weekly food budget multiplied times three. In 2006, the "poverty line" was equal to $20,000 for a family of four. That amount is supposed to show that a family of four who makes one cent less than that is economically challenged enough to receive government subsidies, but a family who makes one cent more is not. It means that twenty thousand dollars will provide a minimal quality of life for that family.


For those who do not live in the US, there are two standards of poverty guidelines. The first is extreme poverty. Extreme poverty is defined by the World Bank for those who live on less than US$1 per day. According to the map found here, these would be countries like Mali, Madagascar, Nigeria, Zambia, and Burundi. Moderate poverty, is considered to be living on less than $2, this hits a larger number of countries.


POVERTY IN THE US

I will eventually write a whole post about this, but for now, I just want to give you a taste and say that if you want to know about US poverty, there is two books which are very good. Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickle and Dimed" is a good start, but it does focus more on the working poor. Another good one is David K Shipler's "The Working Poor". Working poor in America are people who are working a job which pays minimum wage or even below, cannot keep up with their economic situations and make ends meet.


COMPARISONS

Here in the United States, I don't think many people can relate to the poverty level when hearing it on the news or in other media. For comparison's sake, here are some figures:


Liberia - 80% people live under state-defined poverty level

Ghana - 39%

Ukraine - 29%

Indonesia - 27.1%

India - 28.6%

Israel - 21%

Russia - 17.8%

Brazil - 17.4%

United Kingdom - 17%

Iran - 16%

UNITED STATES - 12%

Mexico - 10.1%

France - 6.5%

China - 4.1%

Belgium - 4%


Now, two things I would like to point out from this analysis. First, from my source, there were several countries which are important to me which were absent from the list. They are the countries of Scandinavia. Knowing what I do about these Northern European countries is that their poverty rate is pretty well close to 0%. It is not absolutely zero because there is always those unreported people who are living in poverty. But, also, these countries have excellent services for those who are without so they can have at least a minimal quality of life without being "in poverty".

Also, my other note is that this is rather skewed because the basis for these figures is each countries' own poverty guidelines. What the government says poverty is and where the market says poverty is are two very different places.


I think I will quit now because I am giving a little more than a preview for my following posts. These will happen on Mondays and I will do my best to keep the most current information available.

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