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Monday, September 9, 2013

Possible Solution for America’s Syria Dilemma

After Secretary of State John Kerry answered a reporter’s question by saying Assad could avoid a US air strike if he would “turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week,” Russia seized on the comment as a serious proposal. It urged the Assad regime to agree to put its entire chemical weapons stockpile under international control. The UN secretary-general immediately endorsed the plan.

The Syrian government has also welcomed the idea and said it would hand over all chemical weapons to the international community to avoid being attacked. The State Department has insisted that Kerry’s comments were rhetorical, not an actual offer. Nevertheless, the US cautiously said that it would agree to the deal, if Syria actually fulfills its side of the bargain.

Sectarian Violence Spreads Through Uttar Pradesh in India

Gunfire and street battles erupted Saturday in the villages throughout Muzaffarnagar district, after a meeting of thousands of Hindu farmers that had been called to demand justice for the August 27 killing of three young men who had objected to a woman being harassed. Officials said some of the farmers delivered hate-filled speech promoting violence for Muslims.  Each side has blamed the other for inciting the violence, which has since spread to neighboring districts leaving at least 31 people dead and many more missing.

Thousands of soldiers have been deployed, a curfew has been implemented, all newspaper deliveries and TV broadcasts have been halted and 200 arrests have been made in an attempt to quell the riots. Incendiary rumors are still spreading by mobile phone, making it difficult to restore calm. A state of alert has been declared for all of Uttar Pradesh, which was the site of a 1992 massacre of thousands of Muslims.

Rebels Take Hundreds Hostage in South Philippines

Several hundred armed members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) attempted to enter Zamboanga City to raise their flag over its City Hall and declare independence from the national government. In the ensuing battle, the rebels tore through coastal communities, leaving 8 dead. The army has managed to secure major government buildings, but around 300 rebels still occupy certain parts of the city and have taken over 200 hostages.

This comes after MNLF’s founding leader declared independence last month, after he complained that the government had signed a peace treaty with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (another rebel group, about 10 times larger). He called that treaty, which includes wealth-sharing and autonomy provisions,a “recipe for war.”  The MNLF had agreed to a framework peace agreement in 1996, but talks have dragged on since then and there has been no solution.

It was not immediately clear whether he had sanction the MNLF’s actions or if the attackers were part of a breakaway faction.

New Australian PM Pretty Awful

After a nasty election in which all media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch (70% of Australian media) backed Tony Abbott, Prime Minister-elect Abbot has pledged to cut billions of dollars in foreign aid, crack down on asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat and kill a carbon tax (he has previously called climate change “complete crap”).

His determination to cut foreign aid has drawn criticism from aids groups that it will strain many Pacific Island nations and undermine the country’s image of global cooperation. Additionally, part of his plan to reduce illegal immigration involves intercepting boats of refugees and turning them back to their original countries.

Poverty Front-and-Center in NYC Mayoral Race

America’s renewed concern about rising inequality across the nation, creating a rare moment in NYC:  the problems of the poor are driving the debate on policy and what direction the city should take.  This has led to some amusing pandering such as all the mayoral candidates spending the night in a Harlem housing project and making appalled statements about mold and the smell of urine.

The emphasis on the needy stems from the widespread assumption that, although he has improved quality of life issues, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is unconcerned with (or clueless about) the needs of the poor. Certain statistics seem to support this: family homelessness in NYC has increased by 73% and rents have skyrocketed while the minimum wage has been frozen for six years.  By 2011, nearly 46% of New Yorkers were making only 150% of the poverty threshold (which is laughably set at just under $31,000 a year for a family of four).

Candidate Bill de Blasio (and current frontrunner) has made the city’s inequality the cornerstone of his campaign, to which Bloomberg has bizarrely responded with Mitt Romney-esque accusations, saying de Blasio is racist who is waging “class warfare.”

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