Unable to foresee because of a lack of transparency?
Jan 1 North Korea announces its desire for "peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the rest of Asia" and an "end to the hostile relationship between [it] and the USA."
Jan 2 A turn of the year look back at the recent economic crisis has led the News Hour's Paul Solmon to confront some economists and ask why they did not warn the country of the impending financial meltdown. For months that meltdown has been described as a "black swan," the title of a sophomoric book about the induction fallacy. The answer Solmon received did not point to a black swan. It pointed to a lack of transparency. Shallow men managing huge sums of money were allowed to do what they were doing – and did not understand – from economists, including the one pictured, whose job it is to understand what is happening economically.
Jan 8 For fourteen days the top news story in the US is an al-Qaeda operative traveling on an airplane and the bomb in his underpants failing to explode. He is a Nigerian who met other al-Qaeda people in Yemen, described a the latest failed state. President Obama is taking full responsibility for the underpants bomber being allowed on the airplane, with a visa, in Amsterdam. Machines that do full body scans are being put into operation at airports, where longer waits and more intense searches have been taking place.
Jan 8 Some Republicans are attacking President Obama for trying the underpants bomber in a civilian rather than a military court. "This is sending the wrong signal," says conservative talker Monica Crowley. Another conservative, Pat Buchanan, agrees. The right is sticking to its stance that we must appear tough, including a willingness to waterboard. Obama appears to be trying to show the Muslim world the high quality of the US system of jurisprudence. The Bush administration put the 2001 airline shoe bomber on trial in a civil court in 2004.
Jan 10 In a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court rules that the First Amendment prohibits government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. The case is Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The majority argues that the First Amendment purposefully keeps the government from interfering in the "marketplace of ideas" and "rationing" speech, and it is not for the legislatures or the courts to create a sense of "fairness" by restricting speech.
Jan 12 Hope is being expressed in developing Haiti's garment industry. Haiti's population growth is well above average – at 2 percent per year. The population is something like 18 times what it was at independence in the beginning of the 1800s. Haiti is one of the more densely populated places in the world, with only 70 percent of the people working, where imports ruin the balance of payments. Haiti will be competing with the garment industries of China, Vietnam, India, Honduras and elsewhere. Haiti needs a better ratio between its population numbers and its agricultural production. But putting hope in manufacturing, Bill Clinton speaks of an opportunity for investors and for "the people of Haiti to have a more secure and a more broadly shared, prosperous future" in a program of garment manufacturing.
Jan 13 Minutes after the above posting a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, centered ten miles southwest of Haiti's major population center, Port-au-Prince. Lacking a fire department, fires raged unattended. Thousands are said to be dead. Greater population density makes more death. CNN says about one-third of the population (three-million) is affected.
Jan 13 Pope Benedict XVI announces that he gives his "prayers to the Lord for the victims of [the Haiti] catastrophe" and that he is "imploring God to bring them consolation and relief in their suffering."
Jan 14 On the disaster in Haiti, Claire Shipman and Devin Dwyer write that "The earthquake in Haiti is a tragedy of such gargantuan proportion that it's natural to wonder how – or why – any God, if there is a God, could allow it." The Reverend Pat Robertson enters his own opinion on the quake and the supernatural. He considers the earthquake tragic and sad, no question about it. But he describes it as the result of a couple of centuries ago when the Haitians "got together and swore a pact to the Devil." Competing comments that connect the disaster in Haiti with humanity being responsible for what it creates are difficult to find. Right now it is emergency relief and appearing to care that preoccupies the minds of people with influence and power. Meanwhile, some who don't put their hope in godly interventions believe that unless humanity stops setting itself up rather than being proactive regarding nature's forces, big disasters will continue in Haiti and the world in general.
Jan 16 Commentators are criticizing people for applying perspective to the Haiti crisis as if people can't favor rescue and critically analyze at the same time. Comedian Jon Stewart is among the outraged pontificators, against Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. Another of the violators of let's-think-rescue-only rule is Amy Wilentz. She begins the lead piece at the Huffington Post as follows: "One reason there are so many dead in Haiti is that agriculture in the countryside was no longer providing a livelihood for Haitian peasants; they moved in the thousands to the capital."
Jan 17 It is Sunday, CNN's Zakaria's television program has guests, including the aforementioned Amy Wilentz, giving their perspective on Haiti. Haiti's isolation following its independence in the early 1800s is mentioned as a disadvantage that Haiti has suffered. Poverty is mentioned but population growth as a contributor to that poverty is not. It is as though mentioning it is impolite. Later in the show, Zakaria speaks of poverty in Yemen and Yemen being 4th in population growth rate. Haiti is 70th at a 1.84 percent increase every year. The US is 129th at 0.98 percent – 3 million more people every year or ten new cities of 300,000. Predominately Roman Catholic Italy and Poland, by the way, are among those countries with a negative growth rate.
Jan 18 About the disaster in Haiti, Ann Applebaum of the Washington Post writes that she has donated money to Doctors Without Borders. She adds: "I have no illusions about anyone's ability to help, for this is not just a natural disaster: It is a man-made disaster first and foremost, and so it will remain."
Jan 18 Conservative billionaire Sebastian Pinera is elected President of Chile – the first popularly elected conservative in over 50 years. He will replace moderate socialist and professed agnostic Michelle Bachelet, president since March 2006, by law serving only one four-year term. Pinera promises law-and-order and to boost the economy. And he promises to continue Bachelet's popular social policies. Presumably this includes her pension reform and social protections for women and children. As in Britain, conservatives have not been eager to overturn popular leftist social legislation.
Jan 20 In Malaysia, eight people have been arrested for firebombing a Christian church. Malaysia has Muslims who object to Christians referring to their god, Jehovah, as Allah. In Malaysia, attempts at enforcing religious totalitarianism is in conflict with the government's desire to maintain ethnic harmony.
Jan 20 In Equador, socialist President Rafael Correa's approval rating has dropped to 42 percent, from the 72 percent he enjoyed when he took office three years ago. Economic problems plague his regime.
Jan 21 More bubble resistence in China. Bank of China Ltd. orders its credit officials to stop making new loans because of recent lending growth. Asian stocks decline (no claim here as to why).
Jan 21 Paul Volcker, an economic advisor to President Obama, has been talking about reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act since October. Today the Dow drops 213 points and the Wall Street Journal pretends to know why. Referring to President Obama, the journal writes, "US Stocks Drop On Concerns Over Bank Restriction Plans." A guest congressman on the News Hour blames Obama for creating market instability. He is a Republican, of course. On the 19th the Dow closed at a 14th-month high, suggesting that profit-taking was in order.
Jan 21 Today the Canadian stock market at Toronto also decline sharply. The Toronto Star mentions tightening credit in China as well as bank reform by Obama.
Jan 22 In the US the "media" is an on-going issue. From the Right has come accusations of an over-riding power of the liberal media. Today, Bill O'Reilly of Fox News declares the collapse of the "Far Left media." On this subject, in his "Talking Points Memo," he complains that the "liberal media isn't telling you the truth," and he describes the US as "moving to the Right very quickly." Meanwhile, according to Alexa.com, the New York Times has between 1 and 1.5 percent of the internet traffic, the Huffington Post 0.6 percent and Fox News 0.5 percent. And National Public Radio is reaching over 20 million every week. And President Obama's approval ratings continue at around 50 percent.
Jan 24 Since last week, according to Human Rights Watch, 364 Muslims have been killed in north-central Nigeria. Christians have been on a rampage against Muslims. Thousands have fled their homes. Shops and homes numbering 1,000 are said to have been destroyed in an inferno. It is claimed that 150 bodies have been found in wells. The local Catholic Archbishop, Ignatius Kaigama, has told the BBC that the real cause of the violence is not religion but rather "the struggle for ethnic and political superiority" in the city of Jos.
Jan 24 Correction. President Obama's approval rating is down to 47 percent. It is equal to his disapproval rating – his worst since taking office. Presumption that this is a move by the public to the right (see Jan 22) discounts the likelihood of growing dissatisfaction from the center and left-of-center.
Jan 25 Osama bin Laden has issued a one-minute statement in which he describes al-Qaeda's goal. He warns that there would be attacks against the US until there is peace in Palestine.
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