Winding Down 2013: Second in a Series of Thoughts

A Retrospective On Our World...and Gearing Up 4 2014

Celebrating the Holidays 

Iran, though, has also had its' share of profound challenges as it deals with the aftermath of the disastrous 8 years of the Presidency of Ahmadinejad. It has profound challenges Economically, Environmentally and Socially that will continue to challenge The Rouhani Adminstration for quite some time. His 100-Day Report that was discussed during a 2-hour live interview with Iran's State Television is quite telling.. The Government of Iran has been quite busy as shuttle diplomacy continued to work to transform Iran beyond the years of Ahmadinejad. It culminated in the historic agreement that was signed. The reaction by Iranians on the street was indicative of the psychological boost given. Unfortunately, though, there are moves in the Congress of the United States to undermine it--despite warnings by the President of The United States and the current Iranian Leadership.

The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations dissipated from public view--and it so happens that nothing came of it again--except resignations and claims by Israelis that they wanted peace. The misery on the ground was further exasperated by the harsh winter that covered the entire Middle East that caused floods and added to the misery being faced by the ordinary man and woman on the street. One bright spot, though, was the rise of the women. Senior appointments by President Rohani in Iran and the rise of Musawah is among the themes that will be pursued in 2014.

Europe has also had its' share of challenges. It was amusing to see how Vladimir Putin played the public relations game as he did as he signed the decree releasing Mikhail Khodorkovsky from prison. The Pussy Riots Group Girls have also been released--as have 20,000 other prisoners as Russia gears up for the Winter Olympics. Putin has one objective in mind: To showcase the fact that Russia is back. This is as he extended Ukraine Twenty Billion Dollars for it to avoid joining Europe. Europe, though, lost its' credit rating in large measure due to the continued challenges being faced on the economic front as individual countries continue to struggle with recovery. Although the economic decline has been halted, the harshness of the policies has been quite stark. Beyond the celebrations in Sochii, though, there are minefields that Europe that it will have to deal with. The independence movements in Scotland and the Catalonia Region of Spain will be assessed as part of the on-going evolution of Europe.

The changes in the Americas is also quite fascinating. Michelle Bachelet got her old job back as Chile's President--in large measure thanks to the dissatisfaction with the outgoing President's policies. I was quite fascinated to see how the leader of the Student Movement that began the transformation has made her way to Chile's Congress. Brazil, though, continues to deal with the aftermath of the challenges being faced as it gears up for hosting the World Cup in 2014. It was fascinating to see that the residents of Rio's slums were offering rooms to folks because hotel space was scarce. This is as Venezuela continued its' slippery slope into the near abyss with the near dictatorial powers granted to Nicholas Maduro.

As for the United States, Obamacare went live. The initial roll out was an absolute disaster at the Federal Level--although the 16 States that decided to launch their own exchanges seemed to fare better. This was overshadowed by the shutdown of the Government. But Congress did end up with a Budget Agreement that everyone seemed to agree with. People need to recognize though that the Budget is the blueprint--it is the appropriation process that would help drive how the "blue print" is spent. It was at least a start. There is one thing that did not occur: An attempt to get some semblance of control on Guns. What was fascinating was how those in the State of Colorado who had spearheaded the moves for Gun Control were defeated. It was also fascinating to see how the US Department of Energy noted in a recent report that Clean Energy could choke the Electrical Grid in the United States--not withstanding the major push by California. The Economic Recovery has continued--which has resulted in the Fed deciding to pare back its' asset purchases as it has reaffirmed its' commitment to near zero interest rates to continue

Asia, though, is the powerhouse of the World--there is no denial. China launched its' Jade Rabbit (which has landed on the Moon). This is as it continues maintaining its' orbital space station. India's Mars Mission is continuing onward. But, these two giants of our planet continue to be besieged by challenges as 2014 is before us. The corruption that continues to eat away at China is enough of a concern that the December 21 edition of the New York Times reported on a Mao-Era strategy being brought back by the current President to conduct self-criticism sessions to cleanse and learn from mistakes. This is as the Communist Party continues to deal with its' long-term viability and role in running China. The 3rd Plenum of the 18th Communist Party Central Committee Meeting ushered in new Market-Oriented policies that underscored the primacy of markets as it tries to figure out how to maintain growth. This is as it has had to deal with profound environmental degradation which resulted in its' commercial capital, Shanghai being shut down due to the pollution. India is also facing an election that Modi, the Candidate of the BJP, has a reasonable chance of winning. It will be simply fascinating to see the elections as 1 Billion of our brothers and sisters in India go to the poles. The shocking arrest and execution of Kim Jung Un's uncle in North Korea was quite a development that will continue to haunt that part of the World for quite some time.

Moving down to the "land down under", Australia's transformation has been quite fascinating to observe as well. Tony Abbott is an interesting character to observe--for now, he's apparently on a path of blaming only as the new budget has been rolled out and about the deficit that labor left. Whether he can transform Australia in his image remains to be seen.

I end this retrospective with a personal note: The plight of Malalai Joya. She's a former member of Parliament in Afghanistan who has been a leading advocate of human rights and woman's in her land. I had the pleasure to attend a talk she gave in the United States during 2013. Her courage and determination to do what she can was inspiring. She's the example of what can be within the realm of the possible--not withstanding the current options on successors to Karzai. He's yet to sign the Security Agreement with the United States. 2014 is the year that Americans are supposed to come back home.

It is not easy to be hopeful with such a challenging World that is before us. But we can retain a sense of hope through the power of a smile:

"Outsiders" will be taking a holiday sabbatical as we gear up for 2014. We wish all the very best during this joyous season as Christmas is celebrated throughout the World, Kwanza is so in Africa and other parts of the World . We look forward to continuing onward with the deliberations of our World as we begin a new session starting on January 15, 2014 here in "Outsider Views".

Happy Holidays

Also released to http://www.outsiderviews.com  12/21/2013
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