Thursday, January 23, 2014

Civil war, global protests, future catastrophes - and that's just what's happening this week

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." - Shia LaBeouf 

Glenn Beck says he regrets 'helping tear the country apart'
I remember it as an awful lot of fun, and that I made an awful lot of mistakes, and I wish I could go back and be more uniting in my language. Because I think I played a role unfortunately in helping tear the country apart. And it's not who we are. I didn't realize how really fragile the people were. I thought we were kind of a little more in it together.

And now I look back and I realize if we could have talked about the uniting principles a little more, instead of just the problems, I think I would look back on it a little more fondly. But that's only my role.
Ukraine opposition meet protesters after talks with Yanukovich
Underlining the level of mistrust between the government and opposition, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov accused protesters of trying to stage a coup d'etat, and dismissed the possibility of an early presidential election to resolve the standoff.

"All those who support this coup should say clearly, 'Yes, we are for the overthrow of the legitimate authorities in Ukraine', and not hide behind peaceful protesters," Azarov said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"A genuine attempt at a coup d'etat is being carried out," Russian news agency Interfax quoted him as saying.

Azarov told Reuters the government had no plans to introduce a state of emergency: "We don't see the need for tough and extreme measures at the moment ... But don't put the government into an impasse," he said.

"People should not think that the government lacks available resources to put an end to this. It is our constitutional right and obligation to restore order in the country."
Thailand imposes state of emergency over unrest
The state of emergency was announced after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday and comes after a spate of attacks with explosives and firearms on the anti-government protesters blockading central Bangkok for which the government and the protesters blame each other.

On Sunday, 28 people were injured when grenades were thrown at one of several protest sites set up at major road sections in the city.

"The cabinet decided to invoke the emergency decree to take care of the situation and to enforce the law," Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said.

The emergency decree gives the government power to censor the media, ban public gatherings and detain suspects without charge.

It also allows for curfews and for parts of Bangkok to be declared off-limits.
Syria’s civil war: can Assad manipulate the West?
According to a report on January 17th by Reuters, based on intelligence and arms-industry sources, Russia has stepped up its military aid to Mr Assad. Since December “dozens of Antonov-124s have been bringing in armoured vehicles, surveillance equipment, radars, electronic warfare systems, spare parts for helicopters, and various weapons including guided bombs for planes…Russian advisers and intelligence experts have been running observation UAVs [drones] around the clock to help Syrian forces track rebel positions… and carry out precision artillery and air force strikes against them”.

The contrast with America, which has blown hot and cold about arming the rebels it claims to support, is stark. While the rebels continue to get money and weapons from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, they have had little from America, as fears have grown that arms would find their way into the hands of groups with links to al-Qaeda, such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Western diplomats justify their emphasis on diplomacy by saying “there is no military solution”, but the regime and its allies, Russia and Iran, think otherwise. A degree of military success in the past nine months, combined with divisions among the rebels (which broke out in December into bitter fighting between relatively moderate factions and the most extreme jihadists, leaving around 1,000 dead so far), has convinced Mr Assad that he can grind down his enemies into a terrorist rump.
Turkey faces a 'war' within its borders as Prime Minister Erdogan cracks down on opponents
But the real reason behind Turkey’s political turmoil is much more complicated.

It is rooted in a bitter struggle between Mr Erdogan and Fethulleh Gulen, a spiritual leader who now lives in self-imposed exile in a Pennsylvania redoubt but whose movement, Hizmet, remains powerful in Turkey.

The war between Mr Erdogan and Mr Gulen comes after a decade of friendship, in which the two men worked together to advance the other’s interests. Mr Erdogan gave opportunities to Hizmet’s members, staffing his offices with its followers. And in turn Mr Gulen used his sizeable connections in the business community and with foreign diplomats to promote Mr Erdogan’s tenure at home and abroad.

They worked together to defang the Turkish military, whose generals were notorious for plotting coup attempts against the country’s political rulers. But once the threat of the military was gone, the Gulen-Erdogan alliance broke down as they began to vie for power among themselves.
CAR leader pledges talks with armed groups
Months of fighting pitting Seleka's mostly Muslim fighters against anti-balaka militia drawn from the Christian majority has driven out more than 1 million people from their homes and resulted in more than 2,000 deaths according to the UN.

But in a sign of growing support for Samba-Panza, a representative of former Seleka rebels, who seized power in a coup last March, has given her his backing.

"I want to meet with the armed groups and listen to them," Samba-Panza told reporters on Tuesday. "If they took up arms, then there is a reason for that."

General Ousmane Mamadou Ousmane, president of the commission in charge of military reform of the Seleka alliance, said: "Our goal is clear, to support the new president to finish her mission, to support her so that peace returns to Central African Republic."

A spokesman for a major group of anti-balaka fighters said on Monday he believed the new president could end the violence.
South Sudan rivals sign ceasefire agreement
South Sudan's government and rebels have signed a ceasefire agreement after talks in Ethiopia.

Under the deal, signed in a hotel in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the fighting is due to come to an end within 24 hours.

In the past week, government forces have recaptured the two main cities under rebel control.

More than 500,000 people have been forced from their homes during the month-long conflict.
South Sudan rivals sign ceasefire agreement This 100-year-old idea could end San Francisco’s class war
I can’t tell you how sad it makes me to see the place where I spent my college years embroiled in a bitter class war. As San Francisco housing prices skyrocket, protests are multiplying against the tech companies that have decided to relocate their offices to the city. I can understand why the protesters are angry—the city has a woeful lack of housing and public transit. And yet, the tech companies are only doing what they should—clustering together to take advantage of the ideas that bubble up out of the community when creative people live in close proximity. Both sides are right.

So what is the Bay Area to do? How can this class war be ended peacefully? As it happens, the solution was thought of more than 100 years ago, by a San Francisco economist. His name—sadly forgotten in this day and age—was Henry George.

George’s key insight was simple: The value of land is more than just the value of the things on the land. As any broker will tell you, there are three important things in real estate: Location, location, location. A plot of land in downtown Manhattan will be worth much more than an identical plot in rural Kansas, even if they have identical houses built on top of them. So when a city grows or enjoys a boom, a lot of the new economic value will go to the people who own the land, regardless of what they build on it.
Roubini doom scenario: It looks like 1914 again
While Roubini is renowned for his bubble warnings and doom scenarios, his concerns weren't drawn out of thin air, but rather taken mainly from the lips of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  
According to reports from both The Financial Times and BBC, Abe said on Wednesday that China and Japan were in a "similar situation" to that of Britain and Germany ahead of World War One.

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