By Jon Jen
The smell of ashes and gas lingers in the air in cities across Venezuela, and occasionally the various sounds of shouts and footsteps break the night silence. At times, entire city squares fill up with enraged and frenetic people, expressing their disapproval for the government. Indeed, these signs are all proof of “La Salida”— a movement against President Nicolas Maduro and the current party in power. An unstable economy, claims of corruption, and rampant crime have all contributed to the sudden outburst of protests that have commenced roughly a month ago in Venezuela. But why have the demonstrations become so chaotic and deadly? As the nation with the 5thhighest murder rate in the world and an inflation percentage rate in the 50’s, Venezuela’s fragile domestic situation has actually been brewing undercover for years. Indeed, there have been shortages of goods and multifarious instances of fraud and crime throughout 2013, and the murder of former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear and a case of rape in the January of 2014 sparked cries of lax police control. Soon, students in western districts started to demonstrate and take note of additional problems, such as security issues and censorship, and forced them into the spotlight. Called upon by opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez and by messages disseminated through social media, the protests grew and grew in size, and police intervention seemed imminent. President Nicolas Maduro, who was the target of much criticism, tried to shift the blame off from himself, and accused the uninvolved US of trying to destabilize Venezuela by plotting a coup with dissidents. He has reportedly stated that, “”If they (the protesters) don’t retreat, I’m going to liberate those spaces with the security forces…They have a few hours to go home … [remaining protesters] get ready, we’re coming for you.” The government subsequently arrested Lopez, and sent armed troops who fired shots and used tear gas on the throngs of the so-called “fascist” protesters. Soon, the first blood was spilled, and all hell broke loose.
The first 3 deaths of the protests occurred in February 12, when gunmen started shooting at a peaceful group of demonstrators. Since then, 25 people, including both protesters and government forces, have been killed in various riots. Some of the victims were never even involved in the protests, but were randomly shot by militias amidst the confusion. These militia groups, called “colectivos”, consist of gun-owners and gang members who have banded together in support of the government, and they regularly harass and threaten protesters and bystanders. Additionally, hundreds of activists have been arrested and jailed. These actions have prompted increasingly physical tactics among opposition demonstrators, who have resorted to throwing stones and makeshift bombs at militias and police, a far cry from the once peaceful marches. So far, Human Rights Watch has counted 33 cases of human rights violations, and has noticed the “excessive and unlawful force against protesters on multiple occasions”. Public transportation and businesses have been closed at times due to the worsening riots. Accusations and finger pointing for who should bear the blame for the deaths continue as both sides become increasingly polarized and belligerent.
The goal and preferred outcome of the protests remain unclear, and are not by any means uniform throughout the ranks of demonstrators. However, many Venezuelans are in support of a policy shift, although most do not wish for a coup as government officials claim. “A change of government as soon as possible: that is what we are proposing, very clearly,” said Maria Corina Machado, an opposition legislator. Additionally, protesters are demanding the release of those incarcerated who were involved in the demonstrations. There exists allegations of torture, but President Maduro strongly denies them. However, an investigation has already been filed, and will soon be underway. A few more extreme protesters have also pushed for the resignation of President Maduro, but that seems unlikely to happen. In other viewpoints, many protesters also demand more media freedom, a crackdown on “colectivos”, and multifarious other requests that involve the government. On the other hand, some of the citizens have continued to support Madero’s administration. In fact, various workers in the oil and motor industry have actually backed his previous policies.
The turmoil in Venezuela seems partially overshadowed by other more visible issues such as the Ukraine crisis, but nonetheless has captured the attention of the media and several prominent figures. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has voiced his “sadness at continuing reports of violence and loss of life amid protests in Venezuela, and urged that all efforts be urgently made to lower the tensions and prevent further violence”. Pope Francis has also worried about the recent unrest, and said that he wished that “violence and hostility will cease as soon as possible”. The rest of the world can only wait and watch as the events unfold day by day, and hope that the event does not spiral out of control into anarchy, which may forever rip to shreds the basis of the Venezuelan political arena.
By Oliver Tang
Sun Tzu proclaimed in the Art of War that, “The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace…is the jewel of the kingdom”. The circumstances involving the US’ entrance into the affairs of the Middle East and its subsequent management (or rather mismanagement) of the region have arguably left us appearing as anything but a jewel in the eyes of the international community. However, all things must come to an end and the US has another opportunity to redeem itself through its pullout from a conflict that’s been protracted for far too long. Or does it? Is the United States handling its dwindling days of the war better than it handled the war itself or is it moving even farther away from the jewel of the international community it once was?
A story doesn’t have an end without a beginning and middle; thus, it is best we examine the past 13 years before delving into the pullout. Born out of the tragedy that was 9/11, the Afghanistan War fundamentally differed from its younger sibling, the Iraq War, through the circumstances of the invasion. Rather than a solitary trot led by a unilateral United States, the USA and Britain were both behind the initial invasion of Afghanistan, a mission dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom that has since grown to include 41 other countries (1). The governing Taliban, who had refused to hand over bin Laden, were easily routed but rather than being erased from the Middle East as intended, survived and scattered to desert/mountainous regions such as Pakistan. Two notable developments followed. First, in an event that happens once in a blue moon now, the 15 permanent and nonpermanent members of the UN Security Council unanimously voted to maintain security within the country and to train Afghan National Security Forces through a task force named the International Security Assistance Force (2). Second, Hamid Karzai, an early leader in the anti-Taliban movement, was elected to head the Afghan Interim Administration in 2002, a title that has evolved into a presidency and has held on to this day with popular election victories in both 2009 and 2014. Had history ended in 2002, Afghanistan would have become the poster child of interventionism and the glorious, progressive powers of the West. Unfortunately for everybody, history did not in 2002.
If American popular opinion is any indicator of efficacy, with disapproval of the war hovering at Iran war-levels of 52% (an undecided response from 10% of Americans leaves support for the war at a low 37%) and the opinion that getting involved in Afghanistan was “the wrong decision” doubling in popularity among Americans over the past 10 years, the US has (at least appeared) to fulfill the ambitious goals it came into the region and the ones that sprung up over time (3). But what went so wrong? The first explanation may be the constant shadow looming over the reality that is war: war crimes. Amid the unfortunate existence of collateral damage evidenced by the Nangar Khel incident or the near remorseless slaying of innocents that can only be attributed to prejudice or debilitating mental conditions in the Maywand District murders, just last year more skeletons in the closet were revealed through the form of 10 bodies found just outside a US army base. Even generous estimates find that at least 17000 soldiers have lost their lives (4). With recent estimates finding that Afghanistan may boast a trillion dollars worth of mineral reserves, not only does the potential of abuse for the sake of profit comes into play too, the West might not be leaving anytime soon. That leads into a second explanation: the West has more than overstayed its welcome. All the way back in 2010, the Afghanistan war had the honor of becoming America’s longest war, surpassing Vietnam. Obama ran on the relatively popular platform back in 2008 of pulling out, remarking, “I will give my military a new mission on my first day of office: ending the war” (5). Within a year, 30000 more troops had been deployed to Afghanistan, marking everything but an end to the war. A third explanation may justify why Obama had to go back on his word: the initial invasion didn’t work and the Taliban still pose a threat. In the years following 2002, this has unfortunately been the case. Not only has the conflict spilled over into Afghanistan, the Taliban has reasserted its authority in the more rural areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan (7). This ties back into Karzai’s administration, one that ranks as one of the three most corrupt countries in the world on the Corrupt Perception Index. This also ties back into the ever present and sometimes abusive presence of the West, which have stoked the flames of anti-Americanism and terrorism. What complicates this quagmire further is the Taliban’s nasty habit of resorting to asymmetric warfare, guerilla raids, ambushes, and suicide attacks, methods of combat the US is historically unable to handle (I’m looking at you Vietnam). With these three issues in mind, a situation that looked to be convincingly improving became protracted in a thirteen year affair, a burden we have been carrying with us up to now.
However, are we any closer to dislodging ourselves from this predicament? If international action and Obama have anything to say, the answer is yes. Just this month, the UK (our original partners in starting the war) has reduced their troop presence by 60% in an operation defense correspondent Jonathan Beale calls “complex and well-planned” (9). Unlike the surge of unpopularity gripping America, Britain came in with much less ambitious goals and has left with a sense of satisfaction, with Prime Minister reflecting that the ultimate goal was always only “a basic level of security”, a goal “that has been accomplished and our troops can be proud of” (9). Britain’s sister under the Commonwealth of Nations, Canada, has also undergone its own process of withdrawal, following under the footsteps of fellow ISAF members “Holland, Denmark, Australia, Poland, and Spain” (10). The departure of a task force numbering 100 just last week marks the end of the nation’s 12-year involvement in the war. Of the goodbyes sending off these soldiers, some have not been too pretty. The Taliban has already taken the liberty of releasing press statements to rural areas of Afghanistan “celebrat[ing] victory and freedom from the Canadians” (10). An imperial force that was apparently forced to retreat in failure, Canada is now portrayed as a country that “came with dreams of colonization, dreams that have been shattered by [the Taliban’s] powerful explosions and iron-fist attacks” (10). 7 countries have now begun or completed the process of withdrawing their presence from the “Graveyard of Empires”, but what of the USA? As established earlier, Hamid Karzai’s leadership over Afghanistan has been questionable at best and his governance, both domestically and internationally, has been exacerbated by a certain agreement known as the Bilateral Security Agreement. Drafted last year and agreed by the general countries involved (America and Afghanistan), the BSA creates a framework for international policy ensuring policy in Afghanistan once America is gone as well as plans for continued anti-insurgency fighting. However, even after endorsement from fellow leaders back in November, Karzai has staunchly refused to sign the treaty, citing a “lack of peace process under way with the Taliban” or “contingency plan” for cooperation with insurgents in place, afraid that any havoc wreaked by the Taliban should the West tone down their presence would be traced back to and blamed on him (11). America was not amused. The White House has already stated in a press release that Hamid’s reluctance would prove deadly in the long run, rendering any “post-USA mission in Afghanistan smaller in size and ambition” (11). In a recent phone call with Karzai, Obama has already directly expressed plans to the leader for an “orderly withdrawal” of troops by the end of 2014. Although candidates running against Karzai in the 2014 elections rolling along soon have promised cooperation with the BSA, it’s looking like the Obama administration is not willing to take that chance; the USA has warned since last October that “it would not protect Afghanistan from external attack because it could get mired in a war with Afghanistan” (11). While actions may speak louder than words, in this case, the words make it loud and clear that America’s presence in Afghanistan may not be lasting any longer.
So we have the question of whether a withdrawal is happening out of the way, but the more important question is: Are we going about this the right way? First and foremost, will we being see a collapse in security? Some say an adamant yes. Marine General Joseph Dunford warned just this month a withdrawal means “abandoning the people of Afghanistan, abandoning the endeavor that we’ve been here on for the last decade” and would subsequently create a “huge moral factor” that would allow al-Qaeda to regroup (16). A recent nonpartisan study corroborates that a lack of US means would leave “systematic gaps in capability”, literally opening the door to the country for the Taliban (17). Army Corporal David Thorpe argues the opposite, stating that Afghanistan is “much more secure” and certainly much better off than an Afghanistan without Western involvement (18). Af this point, policy evaluations are scattered: should we leave things up to the international community, safeguards left by the Afghani people, or still maintain a small presence in the region? Furthermore, one of the biggest forces we are relying on to maintain security are the police: can they be trusted? This issue becomes extremely important given the fact that an estimated 97% of all security operations are now being handled by the Afghanistan police force (13). Only 2 years ago, police specifically trained by America were found guilty of 7 counts of abuse, including but not limited to ransom, rape, and murder (12). The BSA and placeholders left behind by NATO specifically has measures to further train the police and address these egregious concerns. However for the time being, the consensus seems to be that the overall functionality of the police has “been growing steadily since 2007”, with one trainer arguing, “They are going to have challenges…but they also have confidence” (9). Additionally, as even a terrorist organization can’t succeed without public cooperation to some extent, have we successfully appealed to the “hearts and minds” of the people? When we take a look back at Canada, it seems like we don’t have too much to worry about. Despite Taliban propaganda, testimony from a district elder in Panjwali reveals that the general consensus in the rural region is that the West were a powerful force “who scared the Taliban and often forced them to hide”; he concludes that “people do recognize the Canadians came to help” (9). Moreover, with 57% of Afghanis believing that their country is heading in the right direction (ironically nearly the same percentage of Americans who believe the opposite), it seems that the West has left to some degree a positive effect, at least in their eyes. Finally, are there any logistical or pragmatic concerns? As the 7 countries before us have demonstrated, the process is not difficult as we are making it out to be. Besides, there’s only one thing more expensive than pullout, and that’s prolonged war. One extremely questionable decision that America has been making is its consideration of handing over used American military material to Pakistan. With Pentagon figures estimating a cost of $100000 to ship back an individual vehicle, $7 billion of our military equipment might just be dumped into the hands of Pakistan. This deliberation is questionable at best, given Pakistan’s role not only as a geopolitical region of instability (and most notably the preferred safe haven of Taliban over the course of the Afghanistan war), but also as a historical squanderer of American aid (look no further to intelligence estimates that Pakistan has wasted a good 70% of military aid it has received from America). On the bright side, this consideration remains as it is in the status quo, just a consideration. However, the existence of such problems indicates the depth of policy evaluation that must go into organizing a withdrawal from Afghanistan.
13 years. 33600 soldiers. 2313 deaths. America has and continues to make a heavy commitment to the hotbed of stability that was, and arguably still is, Afghanistan. The nature of Obama’s choice, motivated by a lack of understanding with Karzai, to leave the country in the first place holds heavy implications for our country. The void we inevitably leave behind, the potential repercussions, and the inevitable costs that come with removing a force that’s been present for 13 years also hold heavy implications for our country. Every story and must come to an end and it looks like the tale that is the Afghanistan War is finally drawing to a close. Only time will tell if America is going to get that storybook ending or one full of crushed dreams and dashed hopes.
By Oliver Tang
To Christopher Columbus, a 15th century European, the relatively uncolonized Venezuela was a paradise, fondly nicknamed the “Land of Grace”. Fast-forward a little more than 5 centuries later and this moniker seems all but appropriate. With a staunchly Socialist government once headed by the late Hugo Chavez and increasingly strained relations with the United States (just last month 3 American diplomats were expelled for “promoting violence”), this South American country has been amidst in its own “Venezuelan Spring” since January (1). A conflict overshadowed by the likes of Ukraine and Flight 370 in the media, the protests have nearly turned the country into a war zone. Is the government of the recently elected Nicolas Maduro to blame? Where did everything so wrong?
As usual, a brief walk through history is necessary to understand the context and roots of the revolts. Nearly every modern aspect of Venezuela can be traced to the pivotal 1998 election of Hugo Chavez, the start of the Bolivarian Revolution. Born into a working-class family, Hugo Chavez won the presidency of Nicaragua for his newly formed party, the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), on a landslide decision, running on an anti-poverty and anti-corruption platform (an ideology collectively referred to as “Chavismo”). The most important implication of Chavismo was its heavy roots in socialism (Chavez was one of the key figures in defining a wave of “21st Century Socialism”), a connection that unfortunately and inevitably alienated the American government, which became the target of blame when a failed coup against Chavez rolled around in 2002 (2). Chavez’ allegations of Bush being “the devil” didn’t do wonders for the two countries’ relations either (3). Chavez’ nearly 15 years of presidency were characterized not only by his ride on the “pink tide” of left-wing ideology sweeping South America (allying himself with the Castros and Daniel Ortega to name a few), but also heavy socialist reforms including but not limited to the nationalization of several industries and universities, financing health clinics and programs, land/housing reform, providing widespread free food, and improving worker unions and cooperation (4, 5). Hugo Chavez’ bottom up policies proved to be extremely popular among the poor and working class and he ended his career with a approval rating of 64%; Chavez proved to be nowhere near as popular in the USA with a rating of 18% (6, 7). Hugo Chavez legitimately won reelection in 2000, 2002, and 2008 on similar landslide decisions before ultimately postponing what would be his final inauguration after the return of his cancer. Chavez died shortly after, on March 3, 2013. That’s where Chavez’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nicolas Maduro, comes in. Coming from similar blue collar roots as Chavez (boasting careers as a bus driver and trade unionist”, Maduro made his way into and found his way up Chavez’ inner circle, eventually gaining the honor of being Chavez’ “most capable administrator and politician” (8). Becoming interim president after Chavez’ death, Nicolas Maduro won a narrow election, leading the Socialist Party to victory by a narrow margin of 1.8% (9). Besides Maduro’s alarmingly close election (as compared to his predecessor’s landslide victories), another red flag came in the form of a man that got past incompetent security, grabbing Maduro’s microphone and interrupting the inauguration. Unfortunately for Nicolas Maduro and more importantly Venezuela, Chavez’ right hand man would come nowhere near to matching his predecessor’s legacy.
Maduro’s victory brought back memories of 1998, running on a foundation of “tackl[ing] corruption and crime” and promising shortly after, “Good times are on the way” (9). So what went wrong? What would incite an entire country to revolt against a government that had yet to reach its first anniversary? The answer can be found in the form of three ailments rampant near the end of the Chavez administration, that have gotten worse during (and possibly as a direct result of) the Maduro administration that have brought the entire country to a boiling point. The first grievance of the Venezuelan people against Maduro is, counterintuitive to his campaign promise, his utter failure to address crime. Venezuela boasts a homicide rate of 78 murders per 100000 people, a figure that doubled over the past few years even despite socialist anti-poverty programs; as one gravedigger who was forced to bury his own nephew put it, “Violence is the modern fashion in Venezuela” (10). To put this astonishing rate into perspective, Venezuela’s homicide rate is nearly 15 times higher than the USA, 260 times higher than Japan, and has resulted in a murder occurring approximately every 21 minutes (11). Obviously, Venezuela is not too pleased. It’s not a coincidental that a high-profile crime was the catalyst that first brought people to the streets. Akin to the shot heard around the world, Franz Ferdinand’s assassination paving the way for a world war, the murder of former Miss Venezuela Monica Spears in a botched robbery became the “shot heard around Venezuela” as it began the earliest protests against Maduro’s regime (12). While Maduro’s government attempts blame this surge in crime on “capitalist crimes” such as violent media and drug trafficking, a better explanation lies in the government’s utter failure to reform both its police force and justice system. This complete incompetency ties into Venezuela’s second grievance: corruption. Hugo Chavez was no saint and his presidency saw Venezuela fall into the bottom 10, 165th in world, when it came to state sector corruption (13). Maduro, counterintuitive to his campaign promises again, has done nothing significant to improve the state of his government, with another report finding this year that Venezuela still remains one of the top 20 in the world when it comes to corruption and boasts the most corrupt judicial system (14). It’s not like the people are unaware either: shortly before the revolts 75% of Venezuelans stated that corruption was a widespread problem (15). Corruption, the root of all evils, prevents and even undermines any possible governmental reform, perpetuating a vicious cycle. Maduro’s failure/lack of willingness to address this ticking time bomb may have proven to be his demise, as the people call for a swift exit for a government that has failed to address its own internal problems. Maduro is endangered not only by perceived governmental incompetence through the form of corruption but also through tangible governmental incompetence in the form of Venezuela’s third grievance: the economy. Unlike Chavez and his ability to win over the working class, Maduro is seeing no such success. Venezuela is gripped with a 56% inflation rate, a number that has actually doubled since the course of Maduro’s presidency (16). As usual, Maduros has seemed completely reluctant to take the blame for the economy, contrary to his history as a trade unionist, and has blamed the state of the economy on “capitalism” and an “economic war” being waged against him; Maduro’s subsequent decisions to enact price/profit controls and raise gas prices for the first time in 15 years aren’t doing wonders for his popularity either (17). The people are feeling the brunt of the economy: Venezuela’s scarcity index has reached 28%, meaning that in short time common amenities like flour and toilet paper will be running out of stock and cost fortunes (17). So in retrospect, yes, there are clear problems in Venezuela that are the fuel feeding the fire of revolution and yes, Maduros is at least partially to blame for his attempts to shift the guilt onto nonexistent forces and his complete failure to address these grievances.
With the fundamental roots of the protests in mind, what is the actual state of Venezuela? The revolt has taken to the streets of Venezuela’s major cities: Caracas, San Cristobal, Merida, Valencia, and Maracaibo. Perhaps the biggest spasm of violence came a month ago, when 50000 took to the streets of Caracas, one that forced our House of Representatives to pass a near unanimous unbinding resolution condemning the violence in the country and imploring for sanctions (18). Maduros has already taken the liberty of blaming the violence on a conspiracy from the US to undermine his government, a largely unsubstantiated claim that was still the basis for the aforementioned withdrawal of 3 American diplomats from the country. If anything, Maduros’ government seems to be the primary offender in the status quo, with testimony elucidating, “The bigger problem is actually the government troops. The National Guard is the one that is doing the most violence, shooting on protesters and buildings. They tend to be very unprofessional. They don’t think in terms of civilian policing, so they will often fire on people who are fleeing. These are people who are 20 to 22 years old and oftentimes they end up being violent” (17). It seems that Venezuela seems to be following the unfortunate modern trend of brutal police crackdown on revolts, with further reports corroborating that the police are “respond[ing] with tear gas and water cannons” (19). Other details of the revolts are not so clear-cut. For example, there have also apparently been instances of government employed paramilitary troops; while very poor quality video might support this phenomenon, it has been generally dismissed as “appeals to the middle class’ worst nightmare” (17). Looking to the side of the opposition, protestors do not seem to be too fazed. The youth, a ubiquitous demographic when it comes to anti-governmental protests, seem to remain a cohesive and determined unit. Eusebio Acosta, one demonstrator, argues that, “The youth today have decided they’re ready to give up their lives for the country, for freedom” (19). But of course, what would be a group without its leaders? Leopoldo Lopez, a long time politician and social activist against Chavez and subsequently his successor, became a natural leader of the opposition movement and brought purpose to what would have otherwise been a disorganized group of people dissatisfied with the government. Unfortunately for the opposition, after being faced with counts including “murder, arson, and terrorism”, Lopez surrendered himself to the government just last month, thronged by supporters (20). Maduros has taken similar steps against other opposition leaders, having recently arrested both San Diego Mayor Enzo Scarano and San Cristobal Mayor Daniel Caballlos for fomenting violence (21). However, as history has proven time and time again, an idea can not be stopped by the arrest of a few outspoken people and there will always be leaders to fill the void of those silenced by the government. Nearly 3 months in, the revolts look poised to continue and cooperation between the opposition and Maduros’ government have seen no signs of improvement.
However, not everything is fire and brimstone. For starters, casualties have remained at a relative low, with deaths “only” numbering 31 and injuries numbering 461 (as compared to the 102 deaths and 1221 injuries of Ukraine) (22). Furthermore, most of the revolts are concentrated in the cities of Venezuela, with one correspondent from the Washington Office reporting, “From the outside it always looks like the whole country’s in flames, but of course life goes and most things are up and running” (17). Furthermore, the revolution is largely a middle class process; the poor, long benefactors of Chavez’ policies, have for the most part remained supporters of his Chavismo ideology. As Maduro’s presidential opponent in the 2013 elections and opposition leader Henrique Capriles grudgingly points out, “For the protests to be effective, they must include the poor” (17). Even Leopoldo Lopez is worried that the revolt might be near death’s knell, warning the possibility of the revolution “fizzl[ing] out” to his supporters from behind bars. However, don’t expect the revolution to fizzle out yet. Lopez’ warning was followed by a revolt in Caracas within a week and support from the poor may be reaching its limits, with more recent analyses finding that lower class support for Maduros is conditional and support for the opposition is reaching 47% across the socioeconomic spectrum (23). For the time being, the people will stay on the streets and the revolts shall live on.
Where are we now? In just a matter of months, the protests have cost Venezuela an estimated $10 billion (24). Given the state of the economy going into the revolution in the first place, whether or not we see a fizzling out or prolonged period of unrest, the country has some serious rebuilding to do. Violence fortunately remains limited, but still dangerous because of the violent and unrestrained nature of Venezuela’s governmental forces. The opposition and the government are not displaying any major signs of reconciliation and if anything, the trends point to increased support for the opposition. What will become of Venezuela in the next month? In the next year? Who will we ultimately be seeing in office? The extent and ultimate impact of the revolts are ambiguous for the time being but if history (and American political/economic pressure) has anything to say, the odds are highly against Maduros. Chavez and Maduros both left their own marks on Venezuela, but once the revolts of Venezuela are over and done with, the absolute priority should be correcting the crime, correcting the corruption, and correcting the economic conditions that brought the revolution to life in the first place. Only then will Venezuela see some semblance of long-term stability. Only then will Venezuela be deserving of its age-old title the “Land of Grace”.
By Tim O'Shea
Every powerful nation has produced its own Achilles’ Heels. The size of the Roman Empire led to disunity and weakness. The rallying persona of Alexander the Great led to a dependence on his leadership that caused his empire to collapse soon after his death. And for the modern China, the same environmental disregard that has allowed their industry to proceed at such a rapid pace may be strangling its citizens.
Recent decades have seen exponential economic growth in China, accompanied by an expansion of diplomacy, trade, and international attention. But behind the satin curtain of a prosperous China lies the – literally – dirty truth about the fuel for the rise: coal. 70% of China’s energy production comes through coal – fired power plants, and coal produces absurd amounts of pollutants and greenhouse gasses, without even considering the especially poor efficiency and environmental considerations in China specifically. Beijing has turned a blind eye to the rampant violation of the country’s environmental regulations as a way to perpetuate rapid growth, but the sacrifices are severe. The latest World Health Organization data from 2013 places Beijing’s average at particulate matter levels at 156% higher than the national standard. Particulate matter poses a disproportionate health risk because the particles are small enough to pass through the body’s natural barriers and defenses, infiltrating human blood streams and organs.
The health implications for the emissions problem at large are staggering. Outdoor air pollution allegedly killed 1.2 million Chinese citizens in 2010 alone, life expectancy in China fell 5.5 years from 1981 to 2001, and rates of lung cancer have risen over 450% despite stagnated levels of smoking. A Chinese politician might see these sufferings as only necessary sacrifices, but that’s a flawed, perhaps smoggy, lens. Health issues undoubtedly lower productivity by increasing the amount of sick days, hurting focus while at work, and forcing more citizens to use already – overcrowded medical infrastructure that could just as easily cure them as give them another disease. Such costs are not conducive to the kind of growth that China longs for, and needs if they want to pass the United States as the world’s largest economy.
The real question lies with whether it’s fixable. Unless Beijing can truly commit to reducing emissions by understanding both the immediate and long term detriments, pollution will always be tomorrow’s problem. Such an attitude is apparent in the lethargic level of environmental enforcement in China. But could the solution lay in an even more radical path of growth? The Kuznets Curve, a radical economic model confirmed by empirical research, presents a graph of a country’s economic progress along the x – axis, and the environmental quality along the y – axis. The progress follows an inverted – U shape, meaning, quite simply, that conditions become dismal before they can improve. The hypothesis holds that as companies can afford more efficient and clean technology, and consumers hold enough wealth to purchase goods that preserve the environment, economic growth can contribute to the preservation of the biosphere. And while it seems like a Utopian pipe dream, the statistical relationship has been proven even if heavily industrialized nations such as Thailand. Thus, a more counterintuitive approach to pollution problems in China would be to fight to keep growth going and monitor the market for the inverted U – shape in order to fight through through current issues to a brighter future.
In the pro – growth political climate that has permeated Chinese policy – making, an accelerated path of growth might be the only feasible path for the future, considering past resistance to more traditional forms of pollution reduction. But whether the nation uses emissions reduction. green technology, an accelerated path of growth, or any other method of fixing the pollution, each has one factor in common: they’re needed now.
By Saloni Singhvi
Recently, there has been talk about implementing single-gender classrooms in public schools, because some say it would create a more tailored learning experience for both genders. Education experts have done analysis on both sides of the issue.
Advocates of single-gender classrooms say that the main benefit to these classrooms would be helping girls who are discriminated against in co-ed classrooms. Bonnie Shackelton of the University of Ontario finds that “students in coed classes are subject to sex and gender bias by their teachers and counselors on a reoccurring basis.” This results in disparate attention being paid to students needs; as Kelly Cable of the Center for Educational Policy notes, “in a co-gender environment boys are called on 8 times as often as girls” resulting in girls not getting the attention they need. Single-gender classrooms force teachers to focus on all students equally, reducing discrimination.
However, there are many negatives to be considered. Many experts conclude that having boys and girls learn in the same environment fosters positive communication and discourse. In single gender classrooms, Rebecca Bigler from UT Austin reports, “children who interact mostly with same-gender peers develop increasingly narrow skill sets and interests. Single-sex schooling reduces boys’ and girls’ opportunities to learn from and about each other [by placing a physical barrier between them at the classroom level.] On the other hand, children can interact well in co-ed classrooms. Bigler emphasizes that “the classroom is the ideal setting for [boys and girls to learn to work together] because it is both purposeful and supervised.”
Another detriment would be the costs of creating these classrooms. In the case of Jane Doe vs. Wood County, a federal court ruled that all single sex classrooms must be “opt in, [when] parents or guardians have signed a consent [form]”. What this means is that in every place there a single-gender class is offered, a co-ed option would also have to be made available. Cable explains that “Single-sex schooling may actually be more expensive than educators assume because, besides more training, schools may need to hire more teachers — two for the single sex classes and possibly one for the coed class. In many cases, schools will have additional administrative burdens, professional training costs, and evaluation and legal costs.” In an analysis of schools who have made the transition, the American Civil Liberties Union found that “As a result of prioritizing single-sex classes, these schools don’t have the funds to spend on techniques that have actually been proven to improve academic outcomes, like smaller class sizes and personalized learning environments with mentors, counseling, and other supports.”
By Anvi Mahagaokar
In Roman history, there was only one man who was willing to relinquish power for the sake of the country – a farmer named Cincinnatus, who, after being called for dictatorship during war, gave up his position so Rome could function normally again once the war was won. This kind of patriotism is rarely found anymore, and instead, the public observes politicians who seem to prioritize only one thing (and it’s not the well being of their constituents). They seek reelection. Therefore, it came as a coup de grace when interim Islamist Prime Minister Larayedh voluntarily stepped down in order to facilitate the democratization of the country – which had previously been hindered by the Islamist government. Larayedh’s sacrifice allowed the passage of the new Tunisian Constitution, something that analysts have praised as a revival of the original Arab Spring spark. The Constitution is great for Tunisia in many ways. First, it placates the once furious members of Tunisia, it gives women more rights, and it will aid in economic recovery.
Revolutions may be a means to propagate progress in a nation, but it can also very easily lead to a paroxysm of rebellions led by the idealistic and angry youth. Tunisia’s Constitution is finally something that the youth of Tunisia can accept because it is fairly liberal and is not too lax on policies that the government must implement. It also represents a symbol of government-people interaction, which was a major source of contention in the first revolution. They finally feel as though they have a say in how the government enacts policies, and that is a heady feeling in a world filled with political apathy. The content that these citizens feel is to the benefit of future stability in the country, because if the constituents are pleased with the way the government is handling political, economic, and social issues, then the desire for revolution is lessened exponentially. A decrease in the likelihood of revolution is one of the best scenarios for Tunisia because it makes people (not just in the country itself) less wary of events to come.
While Middle Eastern countries have scaled back on women’s rights since the Arab Spring first started, the Tunisian Constitution has made waves by allowing the country’s women citizens more rights than before. In pre-Arab Spring Tunisia, there were many discriminatory laws that eschewed gender equality. One law that was particularly archaic was the ‘Inheritance Law’ which entitled women only half the share of what their male peers would receive. The new Constitution has specific articles in it, which strictly prohibit any gender specific discriminatory laws. While there is still a dispute on how far these laws will be interpreted, it is still a huge leap for women in Tunisia, who are growing more independent, and need the laws to evolve in tandem for their society to flourish. This will hopefully pave the way for future laws involving gender equality in the region, because in order to fully grow as a society, all components of the same society need to be regarded as equal.
Finally, all of these changes in the Tunisian political atmosphere will hopefully also bring economic prosperity to the country. The Middle East has long since been known as the problem area for the rest of the world, and this image was solidified after the repeated failures of the revolutions. Yet, Tunisia, as the only country to emerge victorious from this dispute, hopes to capitalize upon this novelty. They are hoping that the newfound stability inside the government and society will bring about investors, who are eager to dip their feet into a relatively stable Middle Eastern country to diversify (and maybe get a gander at their oil). By doing so, they will revitalize their economy, and gain something other than political benefits from this progressiveness.
So all in all, while it’s been a long time coming, Tunisia has managed to pull itself out of the typhoon of revolution that has encompassed the rest of the misfortunate and indecisive countries in the Middle East. With their new constitution, perhaps Tunisia can bring the Arab Spring full circle, and end it where it started.
By Katie Kleinle
As a nation built off little more than drive, determination and a strong immigrant population, America is famous not just for its diversity but for the unique manner in which every faction of society has shaped our past. For centuries, that meant conflict between minority groups and an oppressive majority. In 2014, however, it seems as though the nation has reclaimed its democratic ideals; rather than forcing change through revolution, the ballot is the weapon of choice and the voting booth the battleground in the ongoing fight between those in power and our ever-strengthening minorities.
Within the last decade especially, members of these groups have united to an unprecedented extent; this means a more polarized political scene, but equally as important, extra insight into how and why these Americans vote the way they do.
Race is one of the most obvious influences, with Latinos, African-Americans, American Indians and other minorities overwhelmingly supporting the Democratic Party. Their position is in part because of liberals’ freer immigration policy, but also because immigrants from these groups are statistically more likely to live in lower-income neighborhoods (which require the education, healthcare and infrastructure spending they believe is championed by the Democratic party.)
As both a Democrat and an African American himself, Obama naturally appealed to minority voters, and captured 80% of the black, Hispanic and Asian vote in 2012. Considering these people made up 28% of all voters and 37% of the country’s population, they held a significant amount of sway over the election; but going forward, expect this to increase. By 2042 ethnic minorities are expected to make up the majority of the voting population, and thus will hold more power over elections than ever- forever changing the political scene as we know it.
Gender demographics are extremely important as well, and it’s fairly common knowledge that women are more likely to vote left than right for a myriad of reasons. In fact, an entire theory has been developed known as the welfare state dismantlement hypothesis which states that because they have less employment opportunities and are less likely to be financially independent, the average American woman believes themselves more reliant upon the Democratic party, which (at least to a greater extent than Republicans) supports them via welfare and child support programs. They’re more likely to be poor, more likely to be old (women have a longer lifespan), and more likely to be single parents; essentially this means that if women were to gain workplace equality and the ability to financially support themselves despite these obstacles, the disparity between male and female voting patterns would decrease exponentially, and the political balance would shift sharply to the right. Unfortunately for the Republicans, however, it doesn’t seem like that will happen anytime soon.
However, womens’ liberal leanings don’t necessarily mean that the politics of gender always hold true to stereotypes. For example, “women’s issues” like abortion and healthcare are not and have never been major perpetrators of the gender gap; rather, both genders’ views of these problems have a tendency to closely track one another across the spectrum. Further contrary to popular belief, men are also more fickle than women in their voting patterns; that’s because they’re more likely to vote based on the candidate (a factor which changes nearly every election) whereas women prioritize overall party ideology. Because of this, Paul Kellstedt, political scientist at Texas University, notes that slight movement by women to the left or right of the political spectrum is followed by male movement of many more percentage points; this movement can cause the gender gap to expand and shrink rapidly, but usually results in more polarization between the genders’ preferences.
Religion is another factor following Americans to the polls. Prior to the 1970’s, churchgoing patterns had very little correspondence with individuals’ political preferences. This changed in 1972 as liberals became more socially radical, pushing churchgoers sharply towards conservatism (and the Republican party in particular); they’ve remained there ever since. Because of increasing Democratic support for abortion, contraceptives and other secular views, don’t expect religious allegiances to shift anytime soon.
Obviously, life isn’t perfect for all Americans. Luckily for every faction of society, however, democracy is thriving—and with their newfound unification, it’s more likely than ever that a unified ballot is the panacea for minority woes.
By Caroline Margiotta
Since 2008, the European Debt Crisis has remained at the forefront of international public policy concerns. As the economies of Europe and the United States hover on the precipice of stagnation and recession, world leaders are frantically attempting to reduce debts and restore growth in any way they can. Though most avid news-readers consider themselves fairly well-informed on the crisis, its causes go beyond the accumulation of debt in Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain, and it will affect many countries in Europe and around the world. Moreover, it has inspired and will continue to inspire highly varied public policy solutions, as well as many conflicts.
While many Americans believe that the European Debt Crisis only recently originated in Europe and will remain a strictly European issue, the crisis is neither new nor isolated to Europe. Rather, it results from irresponsibility on the part of both European governments and United States banks and other lenders. The crisis’s origins on the European front can be traced to 1997, when Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Cyprus, Malta, and Slovakia—countries linked together by their common currency, the Euro, as well as by their membership in the European Economic Community (EEC)— signed the Stability and Growth Pact . In signing this pact, European leaders hoped to establish a borrowing limit of 3 percent of a country’s nominal GDP to encourage each country’s government to spend its funds wisely and within its means. However, Germany, Italy, France, Greece, and Spain have not upheld the 3 percent borrowing rule. Although Germany and France are considered the most fiscally stable countries in Western Europe, they were among the first to break the rule, and were soon followed by Italy (the worst and most regular offender). Greece followed sometime shortly thereafter but its breach of the limit went largely unnoticed until Prime Minister George Papandreou revealed that the Greek government had been manipulating its borrowing data in an effort to escape the notice of European Central Bank (ECB) watchdogs. In 2007, when Spain broke the borrowing limit for the first time, the EEC’s concerns lay only with these countries’ open disobedience of the Pact. Because of abnormally low interest rates, Spanish corporations and mortgage borrowers joined their Italian counterparts in borrowing massive amounts of money from foreign lenders. With this extra money, Portuguese, Italians, Greeks, and Spaniards were able to import more German goods; this created massive profits for Germans, who soon extended loans to the same Portuguese, Italians, Greeks, and Spaniards (PIGS) who imported their goods. As a result of these loans, PIGS firms and borrowers have been forced to reallocate their funds towards the repayment of their massive debts, which has led to a significant decrease in spending and recessions in each country.
The portion of the financial crisis which began in the United States, meanwhile, took a fairly different turn, and had immediately far-reaching consequences. It began in 2006, when relators began to give out and resell large subprime loans as part of mortgage-backed securities to hedge funds and other financial institutions around the world. Because these mortgages were divided into many different types of assets, their derivatives were nearly impossible to price, so their value plummeted . After AIG failed honor the credit default swaps it sold, banks stopped lending to each other, so borrowing costs between banks increased. Although this subprime mortgage crisis led the Fed to initiate a round of quantitative easing (QE1) in 2008 to increase liquidity in the economy, several banks, such as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, began failing because they held too many devalued assets, and the Treasury was forced to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (mortgage corporations) as well as AIG3. The subprime mortgage crisis created slow growth in economies throughout the world, and thus exacerbated the debt issues developing simultaneously in Europe.
As a result of slow growth throughout the global economy, it has become increasingly more difficult for European countries to fulfill their debt obligations. In Greece, for example, continuously massive spending, lower tax revenues (which have resulted from slower growth), and investors’ continued demands that Greece pay a higher yield on its bonds have prevented the government from paying off its growing debt . Since the rest of the PIGS have similar debt issues, the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have cooperated in providing bailouts to the countries’ banks in an effort to lessen their debt burdens. While the bailouts have temporarily diminished the PIGS’s debt issues, they have often required the IMF to issue a set of “follow-up” bailouts, as Greece did in 2011 after it was given $163 billion in Spring 20104. Because the size of the debt has not decreased, furthermore, the European Central Bank has stepped in to (i) purchase bonds to reduce interest rates and decrease the price of yields, (ii) provide billions of Euros in credit to troubled banks via a Long Term Refinancing Operation, and (iii) increase bank balances to encourage loan growth (and therefore economic growth)4. Of course, because the EU, the ECB, and the IMF must focus on simultaneously aiding four large countries and advising their governments on means of preventing such issues in the future, it has become and will become increasingly difficult for them to put an end to the debt crisis.
Although, in America, we might believe that the European Debt Crisis cannot affect us, the crisis has already had a massive impact on our economy and our world. In the financial market, for example, European bank stocks have performed very poorly, and rising yields have led to higher bond prices. If Americans were to buy bonds from one of the PIGS, and if the country could not honor its debt obligations, a bond purchaser would lose money as the bond price fell below face value. The crisis also affects our entire economy because, since about 40 percent of the IMF’s capital comes from the US, US taxpayers might have to pay if the IMF gives out too much money in bailouts. Finally, the crisis affects global politics because it has enabled far-left and far-right parties, such as the French Socialist Party, to gain power; because many Americans oppose these parties’ extreme political positions, European politics has become a point of fear for many of our citizens. Above all, however, the European debt crisis can teach our government and our citizens an important lesson about the hazards associated with borrowing outside one’s means, and can cause us to rethink our borrowing habits.
Because the European Debt Crisis can adversely affect our economy and may forever change European politics and global trade, it has become a major concern of the American public and the US Government. The American public has perhaps taken greater interest in the fate of the PIGS, as it believes that the crisis could affect taxation as well as the national debt. According to Rasmussen Reports, as of November 2011, roughly 64 percent of Americans believed that at least one of the PIGS would default on its debt within the next 5 years, and as of May 2012, 61 percent of Americans believed that European leaders should cut spending to improve the economy . These Rasmussen polls illustrate that the majority of Americans followers of international news recognize the gravity of the European Debt Crisis as well as the ties between the European and American economies, and see that our country’s spending habits, which are unsettlingly similar to those of many European countries prior to the debt crisis, are unsustainable. In fact, as of December 2011, 76 percent of Americans said that they believed that the size of our national debt, which somewhat echoes the size of the debts of the PIGS, presents the greatest threat to our economy.
American politicians have similarly expressed great concern over the growing European debt. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, for example, have come into conflict over what, if anything, they believe should be done about the Debt Crisis. President Obama has commendably recognized the dangers of allowing Europe to fall, as, “if there’s less demand for our products in places like Paris or Madrid it could mean less business for manufacturers in places like Pittsburgh or Milwaukee” . Though he recognizes that the United States can only give advice to the European Union, Barack Obama has also repeatedly spoken out against rapid-fire austerity, as it would drastically shrink government, hurting job growth and the middle class, and would make it more difficult for the PIGS to pay off their debts . He also recommends that European leaders inject capital into weak banks banking system to keep Greece in the Eurozone and to stabilize Europe’s financial system . This, President Obama alleges, would team with his domestic jobs bill to strengthen the US economy11. Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, in contrast, has stated that President Obama’s policies and spending will lead us into a situation similar to that of Europe9. He does not recommend that we help to bail out Italy, or that we become any more involved than we currently are; rather, he wants Europe to take care of the Euro itself . Like most Republicans, Mitt Romney has not taken a strong official stance on the Europe bailout, but does not believe that the US should be involved in European affairs (aside from giving occasional advice); he believes that we should, instead, focus on repairing our own deeply-flawed economy.
While both the Republicans and the Democrats’ stances have their flaws, there is some merit in each side’s plan to pull the United States through the European Debt Crisis. Although President Obama and the Democrats are correct to recognize that the collapse of European economies will adversely affect our exports, it is neither our place to advise or prod European leaders to carry out certain fiscal policies. Accordingly, we should not, by any means, contribute any money towards the bailouts of European banks. First of all, it is not our place to give money to the PIIGS because we have not been asked to fund the bailouts, and because these are not our banks to manage. Additionally, contributing funds to European bank bailouts would likely increase the US government’s already excessively-high budget deficit, would probably exacerbate Europe’s debt issues, and would distract our federal government from dealing with more pertinent domestic issues, such as the unemployment rate and national debt.
If we are to maintain strong relationships with each country in the European Union, and if we expect to repair and stabilize the global economy, we must let European leaders know that, should they want advice from the United States, we would be happy to try to advise them. However, we should remember that the US economy is not perfect, either. As French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stated on June 5th, “the [European debt] crisis did not start in Europe… [It began with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which was [an American, rather than] a European bank” . Since Lehman Brothers did play a significant role in exacerbating the debt crisis, because our debt has exceeded 101.5 percent of our GDP since May, and because the true unemployment rate, which includes discouraged workers, has hovered around 15.6 percent for several years, according the American Enterprise Institute, Monsieur Fabius was correct in reminding world leaders that “we’re all in the same boat” 13. As Mitt Romney and the Republicans have stated time and again, and as French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has agreed, it would neither be wise nor appropriate for the United States to help the European Union fix its debt issues. Thus, Mitt Romney (R-MA)’s non-interventionist approach to the Eurozone crisis holds far more promise for the future of Euro-American relations and global economies than President Obama’s fundamentally interventionist approach. Although the American public as a whole may not approve of such a non-interventionist approach, given the severity of Southern European recessions, the United States must focus primarily on repairing its own economy before venturing to intervene in other economies.
In sum, given the importance of international trade and the interconnectedness of global economies, the European Debt Crisis has understandably gained prominence and will certainly remain prominent in discussions of global fiscal policy until the United States and the European Union can manage to drastically cut their debts, balance their budgets, and restore growth to their economies. Because the debt crisis arose because of foolish actions by American banks and European governments, and because the crisis will significantly affect American business if allowed to run its course, both the American public and American politicians believe that dangerous economic situation in Europe cannot be allowed to continue without some intervention, either on the part of the United States or on the part of more prosperous European nations. While both Democrats and Republicans recognize that the United States cannot feasibly intervene with legislation or by giving additional funds to European banks, Democrats feel that the United States should take a more active, advisory role than do Republicans. In any case, whether or not Americans believe we should intervene in Europe’s recovery, we all must recognize that the future of our global economy depends largely on the fate of Europe.
1 “Economic and Monetary Union and the Euro.” EU 4 Journalists. European Journalism Centre, n.d. Web. 10 June 2012. http://www.eu4journalists.eu/index.php/dossiers/english/C23 .
2 “What Really Caused the Eurozone Crisis?” BBC News. BBC, 22 Dec. 2011. Web. 10 June 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16301630 .
3 Amadeo, Kimberly. “What Was the Global Financial Crisis Of 2008?” About.com US Economy. About.com–The New York Times Company, n.d. Web. 10 June 2012. http://useconomy.about.com/od/criticalssues/f/What-Is-the-Global-Financial-Crisis-of-2008.htm
4 Kenny, Thomas. “What Is the European Debt Crisis?” About.com Bonds. About.com– The New York Times Company, n.d. Web. 10 June 2012. http://bonds.about.com/od/advancedbonds/a/What-Is-The-European-Debt-Crisis.htm .
5 “81% Express Concern That Europe’s Financial Problems Will Drag Down U.S. Economy – Rasmussen Reports.” 81% Express Concern That Europe’s Financial Problems Will Drag Down U.S. Economy. Rasmussen Reports, Nov. 2011. Web. 10 June 2012. http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/business/general_business/november_2011/81_express_concern_that_europe_s_financial_problems_will_drag_down_u_s_economy .
6 “61% Believe Europe Needs to Cut Government Spending to Save Economy – Rasmussen Reports.” 61% Believe Europe Needs to Cut Government Spending to Save Economy. Rasmussen Reports, May 2012. Web. 10 June 2012. http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/business/general_business/may_2012/61_believe_europe_needs_to_cut_government_spending_to_save_economy .
7 “Public Yawns at European Economic Woes.” Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Pew Research Center, 17 May 2012. Web. 10 June 2012. http://www.people-press.org/2012/05/17/public-yawns-at-european-economic-woes/ .
8 Feller, Ben. “Obama: Congress, Europe Must Stem Economic Crisis.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 08 June 2012. Web. 10 June 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/obama-speak-state-us-economy-16523825 .
9 Goldman, Julianna, and Margaret Talev. “Obama and Romney Use Europe’s Debt Crisis as Point of Attack.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 06 June 2012. Web. 10 June 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/obama-and-romney-use-europes-debt-crisis-as-point-of-attack/2012/06/06/gJQALb9WIV_story.html .
10 Armistead, Louise, and Bruno Waterfield. “Debt Crisis: Barack Obama Demands Action as Eurozone Leaders Ponder Spanish Bank Rescue.” The Telegraph. The Telegraph, 8 June 2012. Web. 10 June 2012. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9320507/Debt-crisis-Barack-Obama-demands-action-as-eurozone-leaders-ponder-Spanish-bank-rescue.html .
11 “Barack Obama: Europe Faces Tough Decisions.” BBC News. BBC, 06 Aug. 2012. Web. 10 June 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-18370744
12 “Mitt Romney on the Issues.” Mitt Romney on the Issues. On The Issues.org, n.d. Web. 10 June 2012. http://ontheissues.org/Mitt_Romney.htm .
13 “France Hits Back at Obama over Europe Debt Crisis – Channel NewsAsia.”Channelnewsasia.com. Channel News Asia, n.d. Web. 10 June 2012. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_world_business/view/1205746/1/.html .
14 Durden, Tyler. “Total US Debt Soars To 101.5% Of GDP.” ZeroHedge. ZeroHedge, n.d. Web. 10 June 2012. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/total-us-debt-soars-1015-gdp .
15 Prasad, Bhaskar. “Real U.S. Unemployment Rate Is 15.6 Percent, Says AEI.”International Business Times. International Business Times, 7 Jan. 2012. Web. 10 June 2012. http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/278036/20120107/real-u-s-unemployment-rate-15-6.htm .