October 2014

Oct 1 Radovan Karadzic, accused of genocide by the World Court, says he takes "moral responsibility" for crimes committed by the Bosnian Serbs he was leading during the Srebrenica massacres in July 1995 – considered Europe's worst since World War Two. Karadzic was educated as a psychiatrist. He implies that he is a moral person but as leader was too tolerant and sloppy communicating with his subordinates.

Oct 1  In Mississippi a dispute over who won a Republican run-off election in June is being decided by Mississippi's Supreme Court. Mississippi's Tea Party supports the challenger, Chris McDaniel, as has Sarah Palin. The declared winner in June was incumbent Republican Thad Cochran. Mississippi's Tea Party leader Laura Van Overschelde says the Tea Party supports Chris McDaniel for the US Senate because "he holds those truths that we should have a limited government, we should have fiscal responsibility and we should have free markets in this country." Thad Cochran also believes in limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets, but Overschelde implies that he should hold these "truths" with a greater degree of purity or less compromise.

Oct 2  The People's Republic of China wants to have on its island of Hong Kong a chief executive whom it approves, and the people of Hong Kong, apparently in overwhelming number, want a chief executive for their island that is purely their choice. Protesters calling for democracy have been in the streets and sleeping on roads around government buildings for several days. The protesters want what is implied in the words "People's Republic" – democracy. Hong Kong police warn of "serious consequences" if protesters block or charge government buildings. The police have been tear-gassing people but not shooting or charging into the crowds. Authorities appear to be hoping that people will tire and return home and to work. BBC News reports that student demonstrators vow to step up their protests if they don't get their way. Meanwhile, Hong Kong does not have the economic importance for China that it had decades ago when it was an entry point for commerce to China. Shanghai has replaced Hong Kong.

Oct 2  A second person in two days is being reported here as having taken of "full responsibility" – a phrase that has been losing meaning. Yesterday, Julia Pierson offered her resignation to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. On September 30 she appeared before a congressional committee and took full responsibility for security lapses regarding the presidency, and as if she might have been offering an excuse she said, "It's clear that our security plan was not properly executed." She is reported as failing to explain the poor communications from her office concerning how far an intruder had reached inside the White House or explaining poor communications within her agency.

Oct 3  Regarding Hong Kong, according to BBC News "many local residents have been angered by the disruption. Citizens opposed to the demonstrations have tried to remove barricades, and in the commercial district of Mong Kok, just across the channel on Kowloon peninsula, they have dismantled tents put up by the protesters. Protest leaders threaten to call off their talks with the authorities if the government doesn't prevent 'organized attacks' on their supporters. Meanwhile, the government is arguing that no violation of any law or agreement about elections has been made, that there was an agreement about nominating candidates and that the demonstrators are asking for the right to nominate. Authorities claim their right to vote is being upheld. Among a few others elsewhere in the world a shaky idea has been floating around that with a rise in economic success, perhaps above the $10,000 per capita GDP range, a country starts to become really democratic. China's per capita GDP for 2013 is estimated at $9,800, 121st among the world's nations. Singapore is fourth at $62,400, but India's per capita GDP for 2013 is a mere $4,000.

Oct 3  Responsibility and efficiency: CNN reports that four days after a Liberian man was diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas the apartment where he stayed has not been sanitized and four other people are still living there.

Oct 4  Hong Kong police arrest nineteen accused of attacking pro-democracy demonstrators. Reported among the nineteen are eight "triad gang" members. The police appear to be trying to keep apart to the pro-democracy demonstrators and those opposed to them, and few policemen have been injured. Protesters describe the police and the "mob" as working together, and they have called off talks with the authorities.

Oct 4  Austin City Limits music festival was broadcast on PBS last night. It contained some of what is known as country music, but in place of the quiet background of rural areas and country music of the thirties and forties was the jarring heavy metal sound of noisy urban life that began in the sixties.

Oct 6  In the United States, congressional election campaigning ends in four weeks. To the extent that candidates are talking about issues, Republicans are campaigning against taxes, government intrusion, President Obama and Obamacare and they might mention the deficit. Democrats are boasting about economic recovery and the need to focus on health care and education, getting money out of politics, more fairness and equal opportunity. One report from September describes voters as rating the economy as the leading issue. PollingReport.com with figures more than three weeks old has Republicans leading 49 to 38% on the economy, the Democrats leading 46 to 41% on health care, evenly split on immigration and the Republicans leading 52 to 31% on fighting terrorism.

Oct 7  In China, the strategy of the authorities against the demonstrators in Hong Kong has been working. According to BBC News the crowds have receded from tens of thousands to just hundreds. The demonstrators have been lauded for their non-violence and for not blocking the normal functioning of business in the city. Some are describing the demonstrations as the most successful civil disobedience movement in Hong Kong's history, but what they have accomplished is unclear. Movement leaders have agreed to "formal" talks with the authorities, and the strategy of the authorities may be to talk the demonstrations to death. Meanwhile across the mainland, authorities have been knocking on doors and rounding up a few people like Ding Weibing. He had planned to read poetry and display posters in support of the demonstrations. Mr Ding's wife was able to complain to a journalist the authorities were very loud and rude. "They scolded my husband and forced him to squat on the floor while they were questioning him." She told the journalist that her husband is "a decent man who pursued justice. He didn't do anything wrong." BBC News reports that the police confiscated their computers and a camera memory card before taking Mr Ding away.

Oct 8  In Liberia, three of its six doctors have fled. According to NBC News "nursing staff members were not coming to work or had abandoned facilities." Hand washing stations for health workers consist of water jugs. Even these are scarce, and health care workers don't have much soap, hand sanitizer or bleach. Some 3,400 people have died in the current outbreak. The World Health Organization (WHO) speaks of impoverished health care systems in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. There are reports that trained people capable of handling the spread of Ebola are far too few. WHO counts more than 7,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea as infected with Ebola, half who have died, and WHO projects 20,000 cases by November. Experts are reported as saying that the only way to protect the rest of the world from Ebola is to stop it in West Africa.

Oct 9  As the United States nears its November congressional elections, a Gallup poll reports 54% saying that Obamacare has not had an effect on their life, 27% saying it has hurt, and 16% saying it has helped. Only 4% of Republicans rate Obama Care as having helped them. Democrats who describe themselves as having been hurt are 15% and who describe no effect from Obamacare are 56%. For Independents, 27% are in the hurt category and 53 in the no effect category. The Huffington Post reports today that House Republicans are campaigning on an anti-Obamacare platform, that most of them are speaking up for repeal of the Obamacare law and only a few for its reform. </p>

Oct 10  The minimum wage – a wealth distribution issue – appears as a state issue on the ballot in November in Arkansas. There, Republican Congressman Tom Cotton, running for the Senate, has changed his mind on the issue and says he will vote for it because of its popularity. He adds that he does not favor raising the federal minimum wage, which is now at $7.25 an hour. The ballot initiative in Arkansas will raise the minimum wage for the state to $8.50 per hour, up from $6.25 per hour. All of this is less than the federal minimum wage in 1968, which then was almost $11 measured in 2014 dollars. Germany's parliament has passed a minimum wage that goes into effect in 2015 at 8.50 euros, equivalent today at $11.61. There are complaints from businessmen of an inability to succeed if they must pay their workers $8.50 an hour. Some others, generally not Republicans, see this as an argument for ridiculously low wages, that with the competitive nature of free enterprise more successful businesses would move in to replace these losers, that if they can't pay a decent wage they shouldn't be in business. A related issue is described by Pew Research. It says that 24 percent of those interviewed in the US see the income or poverty issue in terms of some people working harder than others. In other words, if you're income is too low it's because you haven't been working hard enough. In Germany these people number only 10 percent. And we have in the US some who have looked for guidance on the issue in the Old Testament. They have tweeted from Proverbs 10:4: "Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth."

Oct 12  The European Union and United States have been talking about their Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and removing a wide range of barriers to bilateral commerce. Demonstrations took place yesterday in Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. The demonstrators are concerned about foods from the United States entering their markets that don't have the restrictions that have existed in their country. What they consider lower standards, according to BBC News, includes "more genetically modified food, hormone treated beef and chicken meat that has been rinsed with chlorine."

Oct 13  In Hong Kong, angry citizens move to clear protest barriers in the heart of the business district. They chant "open the roads" and slogans in support of the police.Truck drivers are among them, and taxi drivers rally in anger over lost business. According to Reuters the taxi drivers give the protesters until Wednesday evening to remove all of their barricades.The South China Morning Post quotes the anti-protesters as saying "Hongkongers hate you all." Police separate the anti-protesters and the protesters. The Hong Kong and Beijing governments have been calling the protests illegal. Last week the Hong Kong government called off its talks with student leaders. The size of protester ranks has dwindled. Hong Kong's Chief Executive CY Leung says the chances of China changing its mind and giving the demonstrators anything are "almost zero." A pro-democracy protester repairing his barricade tells a newsman,"We will stay to the end."

Oct 14  With mid-term elections three weeks away, blame appears as usual as a force in voter opinion. Gallop reported yesterday that Republicans win 50% to 39% on the question whether Republicans or Democrats in Congress would do a better job dealing with the economy. Republicans did well in the 2010 mid-term elections, taking over the House of Representatives. With Republicans dominating the House of Representatives job approval remains low, below 10%. That's with voters blaming everyone else's congressman, not their own, and Republicans have Obama to blame for the economy not being better. Republican voters are expected to return their party's majority in the House, and between now and 2016 they can continue blaming Obama.

Oct 14  A known threat regarding the spread of Ebola is people not doing what they should be doing to protect themselves and others. Perfecting collective behavior can't be done. In Liberia a member of an NBC News crew was infected with Ebola and is currently being treated for the disease in Omaha. On returning to the US, the rest of the crew agreed to remain in isolation for three weeks. This includes the crew leader, Dr Nancy Snyderman, a medical editor for NBC. Yesterday on NBC News Snyderman apologized for violations of the quarantine, saying "As a health professional I know that we have no symptoms and pose no risk to the public, but I am deeply sorry for the concerns this episode caused."

Oct 15  In Hong Kong, pro-democracy demonstrators decided it would serve their cause if they blocked a crucial traffic underpass. The police responded, of course. They used pepper spray, tore down barricades and removed concrete slabs and, trash cans placed by the protesters around the underpass, and they arrested forty-five. There was a failure by the police to control their own emotions. A video of police using "excessive force" against a demonstrator has gone viral. Local TV, says BBC News, "showed images of officers beating a handcuffed protester." Hong Kong's security chief announced that the offending officers have been "temporarily removed from their current duties." Later today, Hong Kong's leading tycoon, Li Ka-shing, described the demonstrators as not accomplishing anything and urged them to go home. The government strategy of restraint continues – a plan to let the demonstrations dwindle and public opposition rise against them. It appears that China's leaders will not surrender their defense against a possible rise of a an anti-Party figure winning an election for Hong Kong's chief executive and becoming a force to rally around. Control remains important to China's leaders while they attempt a balance concerning dissent and the goal of the demonstrators appears doomed to failure.

Oct 16  Rather seeing elections as about issues, a recent CBS poll claims that 56% of Republicans think the midterm elections are a judgment for or against President Obama, compared to only 9% for Democrats and 36% for independents. In the Kentucky race for US Senate, challenger Alison Grimes is trying to distance herself from Obama. She calls herself an independent thinker and a Clinton Democrat, while incumbent MItch McConnell does what he can to associate Grimes with Obama, leaving Grimes to complain that he is running against her, not Obama. Their differences on the issues, however, includes Obamacare – the Affordable Care Act. McConnell is for ending it, root and branch. Grimes is for keeping and improving it. McConnell is against raising the minimum wage, saying it would "lead to destroying jobs for young people." Grimes points out that 88% of workers who would benefit from a rise in the minimum wage are older than twenty and she speaks of a living wage being necessary to raise people out of poverty. Grimes has a pamphlet that describes an economic program to move the economy, put people back to work, and raise the middle class. And she is for reducing interest rates on student loans. McConnell speaks of the "jobs-killing Obama administration." He blames student miseries and everybody else's misery on Obama's deficit spending and taxes. Grimes wants to do something about the global warming problem but favors policy that would allow Kentucky to continue exporting coal. McConnell hedges on the climate issue, saying he doesn't know whether climate change is man-made because he isn't a scientist, and he speaks of a "war on coal" by the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Grimes favors "equal pay for equal work." She boasts the support of the United Mine Workers of America and lauds what the union is doing to protect coal miners. McConnell associates the union with the Democrats. Grimes says she doesn't want the US to be the world's policeman, and she associates McConnell with the Koch brothers and other wealthy people and vested interests who have contributed money to his campaign. She complains that "Washington isn't working for Kentucky," and McConnell brags about his 29 years as Kentucky's senator and his leadership in the Senate. Grimes describes McConnell as Mr Gridlock, and McConnell describes Grimes as an Obama liberal.

Oct 18  Around 9,000 pro-democracy protesters in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong "strike back." BBC News reports that "Their goal was to push past police lines to re-occupy the streets that had been cleared by law enforcement officials just a few hours earlier." The police were overwhelmed. The demonstrators retook territory south of a major intersection and stopped traffic in both directions.

Oct 20  With smiles all around, the Ukraine and Russian presidents, Poroshenko and Putin, had a friendly meeting on the 17th to discuss the conflict in Ukraine's eastern regions, and they agreed on the price Ukraine will pay in buying gas from Russia. This morning sporadic shelling is reported in some areas of the Ukraine despite the truce declared on September 5. Russian troops have pulled back from the border and the Ukraine crisis on the world stage appears to be all but over but no firm settlement yet between Ukraine's central government and those in the Ukraine who want some kind of independence. Amnesty International reports that atrocities were committed on both sides of the war in the Ukraine. Nobody is talking any longer about Putin on his way into Poland or the Baltic states.

Oct 21  Pew Research asks which poses the greatest threat to the world, nuclear weapons, inequality, religious & ethnic hatred, polution & environment, or AIDS & other diseases. People in the US gave inequality the hightest score, 27%, and only 15% to pollution & envirnment. Inequality also led in Spain, Greece, Germay, Poland and Italy. Fear that we are going to kill ourselves with inequality was lowest in Japan, down to a mere 12%. There it was nuclear weapons that were feared the most at 49% – perhaps not surprising given their history. Religious & ethnic hatred led among people in the Middle East and in Nigeria. It was highest, at 58%, in Lebanon – again no surprise. Pollution & environment was highest in Asia, leading in Thailand at 36% and in China at 33%, where the environment has killed a lot people. China's lowest score was relgious & ethnic hatred at 9%. AIDS & deseases led in Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, where AIDS has indeed been a big threat.

Oct 22  Monica Lewinsky has put herself back on the public stage. In 1996 she talked to a co-worker, Linda Tripp, about a private affair she was having with President Clinton and, surprise surprise, it became big news. Lewinsky, 41, has a BS degree from the London School of Economics, but she has been devoting her time to writing about herself and to self-publicity. The advance for her book has been reported as $12 million. In May this year she wrote an article for Vanity Fair, and a few days ago she spoke at a Forbes Under 30 conference. It was televised, and she was seen on news programs speaking both happily and tearfully about having been a victim of cyberbullying. She describes her motive for speaking as public service against this kind of abuse.

Oct 23  In Europe a report commissioned by three farming bodies describes the European Union as on a course to "ban" use of 40 chemicals by 2020 to reduce damage to the environment. Growers are worried that it will result in consumers not buying imperfect-looking fruit, that there will be yield losses in wheat, onions, peas, carrots and potatoes. It is said that the ban could threaten Britain's crops (Britain being in the EU), increase food prices and reduce farmers' profits.

Oct 24  In Ottawa two days ago a lone Canadian gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, shot and killed an unarmed soldier stationed at a war memorial and then he shot up parliament, killing no one before being killed. Born in Montreal, he was the son of an educated Canadian woman and a Libyan businessman father and described as having had "a very good upbringing." He had converted to Islam ten years ago and was struggling, working as a laborer and at various jobs and moving from place to place. In 2011 he was arrested for robbery and making threats. He wanted to stay in jail in order to be cleaned of his crack addiction. More recently he was asked to stop attending prayers at a mosque because elders found his behavior "erratic." He found a cause and wanted a passport to go to Syria. He had been in Ottawa since October 2, staying at a mission for the homeless and seen chanting and praying.

Oct 26  Putin a couple of days ago in a 40-minute speech described as "groundless" the idea that Russia is trying "to reinstate some sort of empires and that it is encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbors." He blamed the West for the crisis in Ukraine and the United States for trying to impose a "unilatera diktat" on the rest of the world. "We did not start this," he said, and he described the US as trying to "remake the whole world" based on its own interests." He complained that US actions in Libya, Syria and Iraq have not strengthened peace and democracy.

Oct 27  Brazil's former anti-dictator activist and torture victim, Dilma Rousseff, narrowly wins re-election to a second term as president. She is a member of the Worlkers' Party, which claims to be Social Democratic, the socialism common to Europe. She is said to be popular with the poor because of her welfare programs. She speaks often about reforms. She won against complaints about a stalled economy, which her party described as tantrums by speculators. Reuters reports that "she pledges to deepen social benefits while working to revive an economy that fell into recession in the first half of this year." Rousseff promises to "unite" Brazil. Brazil remains 16th worst among 141 countries regarding distribution of family income – the gini index. Rousseff's opponent, Aécio Neves, of the centrist Social Democracy Party, described as pro-business, also campaigned against poverty.

Oct 28  In Mexico the mayor of the town of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca, was in the pay of the local drug gang. In late September, students from a nearby teachers college came to town to demonstrate and raise funds for their school. The students had annoyed the mayor with a previous demonstration, and this time he wanted to prevent them from interrupting a public speech by his wife. He ordered the police to detain the protesting students. The police shot at buses carrying the students, and eyewitnesses say they saw the students being bundled into police cars. Three of the students had been killed. The police and drug gang were closely connected. The police handed the students over to the drug gang. Forty-three students disappeared. It added up to an overreach by the mayor, Abarca. The disappearances shocked Mexico and sparked nationwide demonstrations. Mexico's Attorney General said last week that during the hunt for the students investigators found a total of nine mass graves containing 30 sets of human remains. Police officers have confessed to giving the students to the drug gang. Fifty-six have been arrested in connection with the disappearance, including police officers, local officials and alleged members of the drug gang. And the mayor and his wife are on the run from federal authorities.

Oct 30  In Germany a truck driver described as a loner who doesn't like people enjoyed firing a weapon occasionally at passing cars and roadside buildings. There was one occasion when a ricochet hit a woman in the neck. For five years and something like 700 shootings the police were after him. They offered a 100,000 euro reward, but It was difficult for them partly because most drivers didn't realize immediately that their car had been hit and partly because they were prevented by a data protection law from viewing closed-circuit television coverage at motorway toll booths. Investigators set up their own license plate scanners and eventually arrested him. When arrested he told the police that he hadn't meant to harm anyone. BBC News reports that a German court "has found the man guilty of four counts of attempted murder, grievous bodily harm and dangerous interference with traffic." He has been sentenced to 10.5 years in prison.

Oct 31  In Burkina Faso "hundreds of protesters" have risen against President Blaise Compaoré, in power since his bloody coup in 1987. Yesterday they set fire to the parliament and government buildings. Among the protesters someone spoke to a TV camera about the country needing democracy. The army chief, announces the creation of a transitional government to serve until 2015 elections.

September | November 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.