The World This Week: Tragedy in the New Year


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January 03, 2015 08:00 EDT

Founder & Editor-in-Chief Atul Singh provides a roundup of the week’s events.

As the world rings in 2015, tragedy has struck in a few places. In Southeast Asia, AirAsia Flight QZ8501 crashed, killing all 162 people on board. In Burundi, the army has clashed with rebels near the Democratic Republic of Congo border. Two bombings have occurred in northern Nigeria, clashes escalated in Libya and nine people have died in a mass murder in western Canada. In Shanghai, at least 36 people died and 47 others were injured when a stampede occurred whilst people had gathered to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. The crowd was too thick and a commotion over fake currency thrown from a nightclub apparently led to disaster.

The year has ended badly for Russia. Its economy is in free fall. Oil prices have dropped by 46% in 2014 and are now less than $60 a barrel. If prices stay at this level, then the Russian economy is expected to shrink by 4.5% over the next 12 months. This is bad news for Putin and for Russia. Sanctions slapped by the US and Europe will hurt more. Timothy Garton Ash, a historian at Oxford, has praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for brilliantly handling “the return of war to European soil on the hundredth anniversary of 1914.” He deems that Mercury, the god of trade, has triumphed over Mars, the god of war. Polina Popova, who is writing a book on Vladimir Putin and post-Soviet Russia, argues otherwise and believes that the sanctions have failed.

In the US, policemen in New York have turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio. The mayor was sympathetic to protesters who were horrified by a jury’s failure to charge policemen for causing the death of an unarmed black man. This event had been caught on camera and brought into stark focus the unfairness of the American criminal justice system. As crowds marched, chanting “black lives matter” and staging “die-ins” in public places, the police felt the full wrath of their fury. When a deranged gunman shot dead two policemen, tempers boiled over. The president of New York’s police union declared that de Blasio had “blood on his hands” and blamed him for the deaths of his colleagues. A large number of Americans blame the police for being too trigger happy and killing too many innocent black men. Clearly, the divisions in the US are set to deepen and widen.

In Peru, protests have broken out as the government has cut employment benefits for those between 18 and 24. The unemployment figure for this age group is four times higher than the number for those between 30 and 65. The government is trying to reduce the cost of hiring, make labor markets more flexible and create new jobs. More than 5,000 people who protested this week see this as exploitation and some are particularly riled by the slashing of holidays from 30 to 15 days a year.

In Nicaragua, a Chinese company began a $50 billion project to create an alternative to the Panama Canal. This 278 km (172 mile) canal is raising fears of Chinese domination in what has so far been the backyard of the US. Skeptics disparage Chinese delusions of grandeur and claim that the canal will never be completed. The reality is that it is too early to tell.

In Egypt, the top court has ordered a retrial of three Al Jazeera journalists who were convicted of spreading false news. The Egyptian President wants them deported because their plight shines the light on the fact that Egypt is a de facto dictatorship where the military calls the shots. It is also complicating Egypt’s relations with other countries such as Qatar and the US.

This week, the US released two Tunisians and three Yemenis from Guantanamo after holding them for more than a decade without any charge. These five gentlemen were nabbed in Pakistan and suspected of having links with al-Qaeda. They have been packed off to Kazakhstan. It seems that the US gambit of resettling Guantanamo inmates in third countries is working well. In 2014, 28 prisoners were sent off to safe locations and the US is hoping to mitigate the flak it deservedly gets for operating Guantanamo.

Please forward this weekly newsletter to your friends, who can click here to subscribe. You can subscribe to our daily brief on the same form. Meanwhile, please find below five of our finest articles for 2014. From all of us at Fair Observer, we wish you a marvelous 2015.

[seperator style=”style1″]America: Lost Child of the Enlightenment[/seperator]

Ideas of the Enlightenment that led to the creation of America have been set aside for celebrities, cheerleaders and consumerism.

Every year, I write something for the Fourth of July, the day the United States of America celebrates its independence. Last year, my article that delved into inequality, education and liberty upset the mother of a friend because… Read more

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[seperator style=”style1″]Have Sanctions Against Russia Failed?[/seperator]

Any sanctions that target the world’s 8th largest economy will complicate the global economic landscape as a whole.

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[seperator style=”style1″]War and Peace: The Youth of Gaza[/seperator]

Palestinians and Israelis cannot keep fighting for the rest of their lives; they must make peace.

I have lived and grown up in the Gaza Strip, one of the most dangerous places in the world. Despite only being 16 years old, I have seen death and destruction, and lived through tough experiences that are full of painful memories… Read more

[seperator style=”style1″]Social Inequality in Brazil: The People, Politics and the World Cup[/seperator]

Brazilians are unified in their frustration with the government before the World Cup.

On May 20, bus drivers in São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, went on strike, closing 11 major terminals and leaving many people stranded. The newspaper A Folha ran a headline that stated: “Protest Hurts the People and Not the Big Shots.” After all, the people… Read more

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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