12/31/2014

Winding Down 2014: Final Thoughts

2014 is already history in many parts of the World.    Australia began 2015 as in years past with the traditional fireworks at Sydney Harbor.    In Indonesia, though, the mood was quite subdued in the aftermath of the tragedy of Airasia QZ 8501.     It is a tribute to how the World has learnt from the Malaysia Airlines MH 370 that Indonesia responded immediately.  We here @ Outsiders join the World as we remember the 162 passengers and crew members of Airasia QZ 8501 and urge all to keep those who have departed in our thoughts and prayers.

The World, though, is ever so dangerous as ever as we have noted throughout our daily columns here @ #Outsiders.     Just within the past number of hours, An apparent suicide bomber blew himself up at a Shiite Cultural Center in Yemen and killed at least 32 people.    Yemen has been in a state of virtual collapse almost all year due to the insurgency by the Houthis who now control 9 provinces in Yemen.   Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen is also very so busy and has the Houthis under pressure as the fighting continues with no apparent end in sight.   As we also went to press with our final column for the year, we also received reports that Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah was hospitalized yet again which continues to bring into question the viability of the Saudi regime--especially as the World has been witness to a 50% reduction in the price of Oil.    

It has also been an extremely grim year throughout the Middle East.   Syria's War rages on and on with no end in sight.      The BBC followed the plight of Syrian Children and the scenes are absolutely horrific   As Lyse Doucette's powerful documentary reflects, the Children are being lost and how this generation is saved is probably the biggest challenge faced by us all as 2015 begins.     As Syria's war rages on,the Dayesh merchants of Death continue their reign on terror in areas of Syria and Iraq they control.   The stories we've reviewed (and commented on generally here) have just been simply horrific.     The slavery of women and girls, the destruction of the Education System and the total lack of regard shown for humanity in general underscores a sense of failure on the policies pursued and the culpability of the major regional players who have continued to contribute to misery faced by the people.  

Beyond Syria and Iraq, there is Israel and Palestine.   The peace process for all intent and purpose died.     Palestine submitted a statehood bit to the UN which died at the Security Council.    The United States Ambassador to the UN talked about how much the United States has "invested" in the peace process.   What is clear is that this investment has not paid off at all.     This is as Israel is faced with another election and it continues to grapple with profound internal economic and social challenges.     It is one of the fascinating stories we look forward to commenting on as we assess the situation.      It is part of over 20 international treaties that has been signed off by Mahmoud Abbas--including the Rome Statute joining the International Criminal Court.   

As 2014 continued, we here @ #Outsiders joined thousands around the World to add our voice to speak up for the three Al Jazeera journalists held in Egypt.   It will be exactly one year since they were detained.    What has been happening in Egypt is also another tragedy.   As Sisi was elected President, the insurgency raged on in the Sinai which has also seen bombings in Cairo and other parts of Egypt.   Sisi positioned himself as a a savior--yet Freedoms continue to be suppressed ever more.   The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 has been reversed.     Throughout North Africa, 2014 also saw insurgencies that raged on--as Western Africa had to deal with the tragedy of Ebola that continues to rage on even today.    This is as Libya joined the growing lists of failed states as rival governments continue to fight on.     

Our World saw another  milestone in 2014 was the end of the NATO mission in Afghanistan:     

Gen John Campbell opens the flag of Resolute Support during a ceremony at Isaf headquarters in Kabul on 28 December.

After 1 Trillion Dollars in direct cost, some 3,000 NATO soldiers who died and thousands injured, the legacy is mixed at best as Afghanistan is now left to fend for its' own.     The price paid by Afghans continue to be ever so heavy as some 13,000 Afghans have also died and continue to die every day since the Taliban insurgency rages on and on--despite some 375,000 Afghan Soldiers serving and dying on the front lines everyday.   Despite all that was done to combat drugs,  Poppy production is at an all time high and more people are employed in the drug trade than in the Security Forces.            

We here @ #Outsiders also reflected upon the so called BRICS:  Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.    2014 was in some ways a challenging year for the BRICS.   The BRICS created a bank that they envisioned would rival the World Bank in its' outreach.  It has an active ssecretariatas well--but whether 2015 will see it be more assertive remains to be seen as it deals with profound internal challenges.

Brazil stumbled in a major way after much hype.  Russia's annexation of Crimea and support of Ukraine's insurgency brought the wrath of the World and cost it mightily--as it enters a recession.    This is as the facade of "Managed Democracy" ebbs away ever more as epitomized by the collapse of the Ruble which forced the Russian Central Bank to raise rates to 17%--as it continued to go after the opposition in major ways.    

India's Modi began the so-called Modi-Wave--and we were on the "Social Grid" as we assessed how he was doing.   But, India also has its' share of challenges as it continues to grapple with insurgencies throughout the country.     As we went to press today, we also received reports of one again exchange of fires between India and Pakistan in Kashmir.   Modi has also been pushing the bureaucracy to be able to change and adapt--but whether that is successful or not remains to be seen.    China is also slowing as it continues to deal with the internal fissures (including Hong Kong, the Muslim Insurgency in the North) and a slowing Economy.   South Africa is also ever so challenging as the split between the rich and poor continues.  It was quite laughable as the latest talk was on whether Jacob Zuma would take on another wife or not.

Asia also continued its' ascendency throughout 2014.   Japan's Abe went back to the people and received another mandate to continue his economic policies.    A new President was elected in Indonesia--and it will a focus of us here @ Outsiders as what happens in Indonesia matters as it is the most populous country in the Muslim World.     

Europe was another "flashpoint" in a very challenging World.  The Economy continues to be profoundly under stress.  Greece, for instance, is once again headed for elections.  France's unemployment is at an all time high--as Eastern Europe also is trying to deal with its' own profound challenges as well.    As we went to press, though, we reviewed reports of two migrant ships being taken in by Italy as Europe is also at the Vanguard of the refugee crisis from the Middle East and Africa.   Italy has reported that some 2,000 people have been picked up by its' Navy over the past 10 day alone.

As we finish off and bid farewell to 2014 here @ Outsiders, there are two pivotal countries that was of focus for us (and will continue to be so in 2015):  Iran and the United States.     Iran has had its' share of struggles in major ways over the past year especially as it has had to deal with the collapse in the price of Oil.   This is as the social fissures continue ever more as Rouhani is trying to make headway against an entrenched elite that is under the control of the Supreme Guide (otherwise known as the Supreme Leader in the West).    One Pivotal Speech he made was on the power of the Islamic Revoultionary Guard Corp as he said that the power amassed by one entity has contributed in a major way to the corruption in Iran today.  He noted that if Salman Farsi and Abouzar (who were two of Prophet Mohammad's stalwarts) were given such power--they would be corrupt too.     The Economist noted quite correctly that Iran's Revolution is now over--the question is how the elite will deal with it.    The so-called conservatives will not give up without a fight--which will another one of the many fascinating stories of 2015 to watch.

There is also the United States.  The United States went through the 2014 mid-terms and the Republicans will take over Congress.  We were witness to a budget being passed and talks of cooperation.  Where that goes remains to be seen.   What we view as hopeful is the forceful commentary by the President of the US Chamber of Commerce as he underscored how the need for governing is ever so critical.   Although it was a solid year of economic growth and job gains, there is a lot to be done as President Obama will continue to assert its' Executive Authority--as noted when he used the  Antiquities Act to expand National Forests and preserves.  

As 2014 comes to a close,  we here @ #Outsiders view three key challenges in our World that would continue to be of profound concern: 
  • Climate Change
  • Drugs
  • Corruption    
The Independent of London reported on the most corrupt countries in the World:


The Independent (@Independent)
The most corrupt countries in the world, ranked in order i100.io/2dTvsqC pic.twitter.com/PQo1D6rw4M


Beyond the on-going political and economic challenges in our World, this was also a year of ideas and engagement too.      The Team @ Google reported on what people thought about and reflected upon all year:   


But, as the year came to a close, these pivotal New York Times images underscored what we reflected upon here in our Final 2014 Thoughts 
Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
From Ukraine to Ferguson, from the Ebola epidemic to the chaos in Syria, the year's most gripping photographs.

We also were witness to a year of ideas and look forward to expanding on these throughout 2015: 

The Year in Ideas

8 minutes · Year in Ideas 2014
What were the most powerful ideas of 2014? Watch this video recap of the Year in Ideas — and click through to an interactive playlist of great talks from the past year. Watch now  


As we say farewell to 2014, what yet again +Jonathan Huie shared in his daily thoughts for his community (and we've periodically featured in our columns throughout the #Outsider network underscores a sense of hope we need to have as we look to the new year with all its' possibilities.

Onward & Upward to 2015.....Happy new year :-) :-) 


 

What we call the beginning is often the end.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
- T. S. Eliot

At the end of a matter ask,
"What will I learn from this to make me better?"
- Mary Anne Radmacher

Cheer for endings -- whether goals have been met or not --
whether the ending is tidy or ragged.
Without endings, there would be neither the opportunity
nor the incentive to think new thoughts,
and to begin great new projects.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie
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