The past two weeks has been a very difficult one Worldwide.
I begin with the United States. On Tax Day in the United States, two bombs went off in the City of Boston during the Boston Marathon. I was working away when US Media broke away with the breaking news. It was horrific. As I write this, there are reports I am monitoring about a gun battle that has been going on in a suburb of Boston. A Police Officer has been killed while responding to a disturbance at the Campus of MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT is a a major University in the Boston, MA area. Pete Williams of NBC News who has been right on all the reporting so far is reporting on the progress of the pursuit by the FBI on the suspects. What is clear is that what has been happening in Watertown, Massachusetts is now connected. It looks to be a long night as they continue to pursue this. Something is clearly going on right now. There is a suspect in custody and the suspect is in custody. There was a report that the National Guard and the FBI were on the scene and members of the National Guard were going door-to-door to have people stay indoors as the investigation continues. I was terrified as I saw the videos of the shootings--I couldn't even imagine what the locals were feeling as the MSNBC reporter continued to interview a local witness over Skype. There are reports that another Police Officer may have died. There is also further late breaking news that one suspect has died and another one is being sought. This was just confirmed by a news conference just held.
What has happened in Boston is important to note within the context of the Gun Control Debate. There was a compromise reached to begin the slow process to transform how to regulate guns in the United States. It failed--and that failure was shocking to me. Republican Senators along with 5 Democrats voted to kill the debate on the compromise by US Senator Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey to help transform the registration process. Gabby Giffords wrote a scathing op-ed for the New York Times that underscores the dept of feelings about the subject. There is a change that is clearly going on --whether the forces as exemplified by Gabby Gifford, the Newton Parents and Mike Bloomberg. I wonder whether the death of the MIT officer can further wake up the Country.
While the United States has been in the midst of a number of tragedies (including the horrific scenes in West, Texas), the World beyond the shores of the United States has been also ever more challenging.
The upcoming Iranian Presidential Election will also be an interesting struggle. The only one that seems to be reasonably decent is the former Nuclear Negotiator, Hassan Rohani who worked for the former President Khatami and resigned after the current one who would leave office in a few months. There are a few others--but it will probably be between Rohani and one of the so-called Conservative players. They are all establishment figures anyway that first have to pass muster through the Guardian Council. Iran suffered two massive Earthquakes over the past two weeks. Thankfully, the Nuclear Plant in the South of the Country was not damaged according to the reports I reviewed. It would have caused major challenges for the countries of the Gulf. What was quite scary was that the second one shook everyone from Pakistan to Abu Dhabi. This past week saw Iran celebrate Army Day. I caught the parade on Iran's pressTV. The reporter was amazed by how "new" some of the equipment were. Although the level of armaments shown were impressive, I was particularly surprised to see a "Drone" on display as the showcasing of current military gear in the Country continued. I was very disappointed in how the armed forces professed their allegiance to the Supreme Leader--not the Country. I do find a report that came out this past week noting that sanctions are not working and that a re-think is needed. This was also affirmed by the US Secretary of State urging the US Congress not to impose new sanctions.
Beyond the borders of the United States, there is one country that has also been quite extraordinary to observe. Venezuela had an election that has seen Nicholas Maduro, Chavez's chosen successor, be elected President. He's slated to be inaugurated. However, there has also been a determination by the Electoral Commission in Venezuela to audit all returns--a development that the opposition leader has accepted. The margin is reportedly around 275,000 Votes. Venezuela matters due to the massive Oil Reserves it has. One has to see
Beyond Iran, there is Egypt. I view Iran and Egypt as the two key anchors both in the Middle East and the Muslim World. As Iran continues to deal with on-going challenges due to the nuclear standoff with the World, Egypt also is continuing its' struggle to recover after the revolution that overthrew Mubarak. Mubarak has been ordered to again stand trial over corruption and other charges. The economy, in my view, continues to be on the brink. Qatar pledged 3 Billion Dollars. This is as the IMF and Egypt continue to be at a standstill on their negotiations. In the meantime, there is the problem Egypt continues to have with the Sinai and the continued political instability in the Country due to the standpoint between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition. Israel, in the meantime, continues its' policies in the occupied Palestinian Territories Iran's PressTV is reporting the firing of two new missles from Gaza that landed in Southern Israel. There has been some firings by factions from Gaza--but the peace has, in large, continued to hold between Gaza and Israel. New York Times is also reporting a new 10 Billion Dollar Arms deal with Israel, Saudi Arabia and The UAE to counter the perceived threat from Iran.
There is one more country of focus for this latest World Watch bulletin here in "outsiders". Pakistan in the midst of a General Election campaign as it continues to deal with a Taliban insurgency that seems to see no end in sight. Musharaf, the former military ruler, returned to Pakistan thinking that he could lead his party to Parliament. He has been placed under house arrest until his trial for a number of pending charges against him. There are two contenders for Prime Minister: Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif. I hope Imran Khan is able to pull it off--We will know within a month what the result is. The Taliban, in the meantime, continue to wreck havoc on the Country--as they continue to do in Afghanistan.
As we continue to deal with a very unpredictable world, the economic challenge continues to be at the forefront as well. The sequester has taken hold in the United States and its' full impact is starting to be felt. I had a chance with someone with intimate knowledge of the impact who briefed me on how military families have been severely impacted by this. Earnings season is reasonably well. But job creation has come to a halt. Beyond the shores of the United States, though, Europe continues to suffer ever more. What I find a bit refreshing is an admonition from the head of the IMF, Christine Lagard, who has told George Osborne of the UK that he has to rethink his austerity policy. George Osborne has not been willing to listen, yet--as unemployment in Britain continues to rise. The rise in unemployment and continued social fissures it represents continues non-stop in other parts of Europe as well. Cyprus is the latest in the Euro zone countries to have been bailed out. Who's next? Which domino is to fall/ These are all profound questions.
It is very much a challenging World.....
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