Monday, February 6, 2012

Massacre in Syria

The people of Syria have a clear message now, one of asking the world for help. More than ever the regime of Bashar al-Assad has been slaughtering the people who dared stand up to him. The violence has reached new levels as the regime has been emboldened by the veto of the Arab League's proposal in the United Nations, by Russia and China.

It is estimated that over 100 are now dying daily as Syrian army forces shell towns and cities that have opposed and protested against the abuses of the government. Not all the dead were civilians, but the great majority are. Some do belong to the Free Army, as the fighters call themselves, most of whom are defectors from the national army. Funerals in some towns are no longer possible, as anyone seen on the street is shot at by the military. The dead are buried in the dark of night, by daring volunteers, who even then must dodge bullets.

Tanks and other armoured vehicles have been seen encircling rebel areas, and troops were spotted near some of the fringes of shelled territory. It seems clear that Syria has decided to wipe out the rebels completely, before it can become a civil war. The Free Army has ordered all under it's command to not fire, to preserve what little ammo they have. Orders are to protect the civilians from a ground assault when, not if, it comes.

More Sanctions on Iran

President Obama signed an executive order today imposing even harsher sanctions against Iran, including ones against Iran's Central Bank. The sanctions require that companies trading on US stock exchanges release any information on any business with Iran and increase penalties on energy and uranium mining joint ventures with Iran. They also allow for penalties against financial institutions in other countries, who do business with the Central Bank. The United States and the European Union have been imposing strict sanctions against Iran's oil industries, and the EU is also considering striking against the Central Bank. A big shock was when long time ally China cut it's purchasing of Iranian oil in half. Only Russian vetoes have kept the United Nations from adding it's own sanctions.

The world sees the sanctions as the best way to break Iran into stopping it's nuclear enrichment programs, which Iran maintains are entirely for peaceful purposes. However, the latest reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency, state that they are convinced that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons. Israel, the US, the EU, and most of the world have been accusing Iran of just that, since they began the program.

In response to the sanctions, Iran has made repeated threats to close the Strait of Hormuz if the sanctions are actually enacted, which they are not due to, til this summer. Both Israel and the US have stated their willingness to attack Iran, if necessary, to keep it from gaining nuclear weapons. Russia has countered that by stating that any attack on Tehran would be considered an attack on Moscow. And just within the last week Iran restated that it would attack any country who allowed itself to be used as a base against it.

You Can't Speak That Here

Apparently Spanish is acceptable, but speaking your family's native language is not. A seventh grader Sacred Heart Catholic Academy in Shawano, Wisconsin found this out when a teacher over heard her speaking in the Menominee language. Not only did she get in trouble over this, but was suspended from a basketball game for her "attitude problem". Her "attitude problem" being that she was teaching a classmate some basic words in her language.

The girl is completely bilingual in English and Menominee. Her grandmother is the director of the Language and Culture Commission of the Menominee Tribe. And holds a degree in linguistics from the University of Arizona's College of Education-AILDI American Indian Language Development Institute.

The school, which is located just six miles off the reservation, has apologized, and stated that it will make a very public apology as well. Said apology will not just be to the student and her family, but to the whole tribe. Ironically, Sacred Heart, does have an option for Spanish on their phone system, but not for Menominee, which is spoken by over sixty percent of the student body.

Firing Range Funding

Democrat Senator Mark Udall, senior senator for the state of Colorado, has written the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, and is asking Coloradans to sign a petition in it's support. The bill does not grant states more federal funding, but rather would allow for a greater percentage of already granted federal money to be used toward the building, expansion, repairing, and reconstruction of public pistol, rifle, and or archery ranges in any state. Currently states are not allowed fund a project with more than ten percent federal money, the Act would move the maximum up to seventy-five percent.

In his petition, Udall said, "Hunting and recreational shooting are an important part of America's heritage. By improving the shooting experience, we can bring more Americans into the sport, thereby increasing the revenue generated for wildlife restoration. And by giving states greater flexibility over federal funds they already have, we can do so with no increase in spending while better managing designated places to safely use firearms."

Romania's PM Resigns

After most of a month of mostly peaceful protests, the people of Romania have gotten one of their demands, the resignation of Prime Minister Emil Boc. Their other demands include that President Traian Basescu also resign, and that new elections occur. Basescu's government has been unpopular since taking power in 2004. They opposition has gained in strength since 2009 when an agreement was signed with the European Union, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank for a loan of $27.5 billion. Part of the agreement was reducing wages by twenty five percent and increased taxes. The protests began over austerity moves made by the government, that were also a requirement of the loan.

Because of the austerity measures, many Romanians have been unable to find work, seeking employment in other countries. The measures have broken up the country's society, with too many leaving families behind and sending what money they can back to them. Also struck by the measures were pensions, leaving many retirees financially stranded. The Romanian economy has been all but crippled by them, with no change for the better really in sight.