1/30/2013

2013: Quite A Year So Far....

I have been assessing the first month of 2013.    The only word I could find is this:  amazing.

The first shocking news within the past 24 hours was the news that was annouced: the US Economy actually shrank in the 4th Quarter of 2012.   I found this to be a shocker--to  say the least. People slowed down hiring, cut back on spending and generally were pessimitic. However, an analysis done by The Washington Post's Wonk Blog noted how the ups and downs in spending cuts. The Federal Reserve in the United States acknowledged the stall and has noted that its' bond buying program to spruce up the Economy will continue for the foreseeable future.

The changing of the Guard in Washington is also continuing onward. HIllary Rodham Clinton is riding into the Sunset after being in the limelight off and on for over 20 years. Her last day as US Secretary of State is in a few days as his successor, John Kerry was confirmed by a vote of 94-3 by the US Senate. John Kerry began as someone who was one of the key leaders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and went on to be quite a force to be reckoned with in the United States Senate for 28 years. During his farewell address to the US Senate, he reflected upon how 61 Million People in the United States decided that he should not be President. But, as he noted, his career since his loss in 2004 was a testament to the art of the possible. Whatever disagreements folks may have had with him, he took Ted Kennedy's advise to be a leader and be involved as he has been. I would also suggest that Barack Obama owes him for the prominence given to him at John Kerry's convention in 2004 where it all began for him. It seems a lifetime ago.  


John Forbes Kerry begins his new adventure as Secretary of State with a very full inbox. There is the war in West Africa that has seen the French intervene in Mali to tight the insurgency by those who claim to be Muslims but have no clue about Islam. The locals regard them as thugs and losers--which is exactly how Al Qaeda is generally regarded throughout the Muslim World. I was reviewing reports by Britain's Skynews On Mali. It showed these thugs destroying tombs and dispensing their brand of justice--if one wants to call it that. But, I also saw the story of a courageous Professor who risked his life to save old manuscripts by sneaking them out of the Library in the ancient city of Timbakntu to preserve it. I initially believed the reports on how the thugs, thieves and murderes who had burnt everything. I was ecstatic when I saw the reports of this Professor. I sincerely hope that the man receives an award from UNESCO for his heroism.



Beyond Mali, there is Syria. The war rages on with no end in sight. What was shocking for me was a report of an Israeli Air Strike on a Convoy of Syrian Arms with Anti-Aircraft Missles on their way to Lebanon. Syria confirmed the strike. If that is in fact the case, it is a dangerous escalation of a very challenging tinderbox. I continue to believe that Assad's days are numbered. I believe this to be so when I see suburbs of the Capital, Damascus, being bombed daily from the Air and the Ground by Assad's forces. For me, though, the story of the 37 Year Old Woman that was featured on Sky News picking up Arms and serving as a Sniper for the Opposition underscored how Assad has truly lost it all. She's a mother of two--yet she's decided to fight for the future of her Children. This is as hunderds of thousands have escaped the carnage in Syria to take refuge in Jordan and Turkey. There has been over a billion pledged to help the refugees who have been displaced by the Syrian Revolution over the past 2 years.

Returning back to the United States, there is the raging debate over guns.
It has been over 45 days since Sandy Hook. 20 Children and 6 Educators lost their lives when they were massacred. The debate has continued and the NRA has flexed its' muscle in opposing moves to transform the Gun Culture. Those who wish to transform the Gun Culture are not advocating a revocation of the 2nd Amendment. One of the most prominent victims, Gabby Giffords, was before the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary and implored Congress to be courageous and bold and change the free wheeling way in which Guns seems to proliferate in the United States. What happened to her and all those who lost their lives on that terrible day was an absolute tragedy that is beyond words. Yet, the idea that somehow teachers should be armed and schools must have armed guards seem to be beyond the pale of the possible. The Police Chief of Baltimore County asked some very compelling questions during that very hearing. He shared the burden of the Gun--about how he had to spend $ 200 for the holster and how he had to think about its' safety every day. I also wondered about the agony of the Father of one of the Victims of Sandy Hook as he recalled that horrible day during a testimony before the Conneticuit State Senate Committee. What happened to him is the worst nightmare for any parent. I have been in meetings with my local School Superindenant where the issue of School Safety has been discussed.

Beyond Guns, there is Immigration and the biggest challenge of all: the budget. Although the US Economy dodged a bullet when an interim arrangement was arrived at regarding the National Debt, the deadline to figure out how to avoid Sequestration--which simply stated means that the entire Government will be cut substantially with profound implications for what has now become an anemic Economy that does not need another shock right now.


One key issue is, of course, climate change.    According to 350.org "..One of the strongest winter storms ever recorded spent the weekend spinning through the North Atlantic....Joelle never made landfall, but it recorded one of the lowest barometric pressures ever, and created waves 50 ft/15M high. Scientists predict that as the climate changes, these storms will be more likely -- and powerful as reported in  http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/article.html?entrynum=2336

 

Excerpts of this also published in http://www.outsiderviews.com.    All right reserved as per the Creative Commons License.


 
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