2013 Has Begun in Earnest: Reflections in "Outsiders"

Welcome to another year here in "Outsiders".

I wanted to begin with a pictoral retrospective of the historical context of "Outsiders". It has been quite a year that has seen profound change in the United States and around the World.

2013 has begun in earnest. As I write this, a war has been raging on in Mali with French Troops having been sent by a Socalist President to forestall the overthrow of the current Government of Mali as it battles the salafist rebels. Mali is a former French Colony that has been beset by insurrection. This was led, in large measure, due to the returning fighters who were in the employ of the Libyan Madman Gaddafi.

 Beyond Mali, Algeria also was the scene within the past week of violence, yet again. Terrorists took over a Gas Plant and took hostages. By the time the dust settled, a number of hostages were dead and the terrorists were also killed in the process. The World was not happy that the Algerians took it upon themselves to solve this problem. The problem has been that the current Algerian Government has been in the midst of an insurgency too after the Army crushed the moderate islamists in the 90's. Challenges continue to abound throughout Africa--including the powerhouse of the Region: South Africa.

The Middle East also continues to be in a state of flux. Iran is getting ready for Presidential Elections. However, the leading internal opposition figures inside the Country continue to be under house arrest. Recently, the wife of Mir Hossein Moussavi's father passed away. Mr. Mousavi and Dr. Rahnavard were given leave for a day from being under house arrest. Recently, Nasrin Soutodeh, the human rights lawyer and activist was given leave from prison after two years for 72 hours for a visit with her family after a heavy bond. The daughter of the former President, Mr. Rafsanjani, continues to be under detention at Evin Prison for anti-regime actitivies. Mr. Rafsanjani's son was given bail after posting his house' grant deed as bail. What I found quite amazing was the courage of Khomein's Grand Daughter who happens to be married to the brother of Iran's Former President, Mohammad Khatami. She spoke out against the dangers faced by the Country as it battles crippling sanctions. Moving onward to Syria, the killing continues with no end in sight. I found it amusing that the Syrian Foreign Minister called for negotations after having been part of a so-called Government that has basically destroyed the country. I could not understand how a university could be bombed as students were sitting for exams. When a Government is losing control of its' own Capital, it is only a matter of time.

Moving onward to Europe, the economy continues to be the talk of the continent. Germany is slowing down, Spain continues to suffer and the Greeks are suffocating from the collapse of their economy. Britain has been limping along as it battles continued austerity. Britain, though, has received a battering due to the snow that has crippled the country which is threatening to throw it into a triple recession. This is as it is facing a Scottish independence vote in 2014 and it recently had to deal with a raging Irish unionist protest movement that underscores the undercurrents of unification that would happen. As this dynamic continues onward, Cameron has said that he wants to remain Prime Minister as the Labor Party continues to remake itself to be ready to take the coalition on in a few years time.

Moving onward from Europe to Latin America, two pivotal countries have been at the forefront of my observations over the past 30 days. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez has not been seen for a number of weeks though as he continues to battle cancer. The Venezuelan Supreme Court allowed him to delay his formal swearing in and the National Assembly granted him a leave of absence as his Vice President took over the running of the Country. The future of Venezuela is an open question--especially as it sits atop one of the largest reserves in the World. Beyond Venezuela, there is Brazil. The former President, Lula, apparently is slowly being dragged into the expanding corruption investigation that has seen a number of his former aides convicted. It has not directly impacted the current President of Brazil just yet. But the prospects of an unstable Brazil is of profound concern.

The United States, though, is where the action is. As I write this, Barack Obama and Joe Biden are due to be sworn in for President. The ceremonial swearing in, though, will occur on Monday in Washington. The second term of Barack Obama is bound to be just as momentous and challenging as the first one. The U.S. was able to avert the fiscal cliff. The Republicans have also already noted that they would allow a vote on the lifting of the US National Debt since it appears that they seem to realize that they better learn to govern and take a different tact that they have.

As the second term begins, the main battle as I see it is over Gun Control. The President's Gun Proposals are out and have created a huge firestorm on the right. The most hillarious one of all was the "call to action" from Rand Paul's Political Action Committee on noting how Guns were going to be taken away. What is startling to note is that there are over 300 Million Guns in the United States--yet there seems to be a push by the right and the National Rifle Association to have even more guns. Assault Rifles seem to have been especially popular since the debate has raged on about stricter Gun Control. In light of the Sandy Hook massacre, change will occur.

Barack Obama is taking office as the World is ever more complex, dangerous and undergoing profound political change. Such political change continues to be compounded as climate change continues to be ever more front and center. 350.org just noted that Jakarta, the Capital of Indonesia, was drentched in Rain and buried in Water. Municipal authorities in Beijing and Tehran were forced to take drastic measures to protect their populations as pollution reached dangerous levels. 25 Million People live in those two cities. The fires in Australia raged on for weeks due to extreme tempreatures of almost 50 degress Celsius.

It is tough to be hopeful as the new year continues onward. But, there is no other choice...is there?

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