The bloodiest war since WWII

If Ben Affleck is right, a slaughter that approached Holocaust proportions happened, but hardly any of us noticed:

Ask many Americans to name the bloodiest war since World War II and chances are that most would not know the answer. If you told them it was in Africa, they might guess Rwanda or the ongoing conflict in Sudan. They’d be wrong.

By far, the deadliest conflict was in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1998 to 2003. Eight African nations participated in the fighting on Congolese soil, many hoping to seize control of its vast mineral wealth. Some 4 million Congolese died during the conflict and nearly another 1 million have died in the lawless aftermath from starvation, conflict and preventable disease. Tens of thousands of children were forced to become soldiers, and as many as two out of three women were victimized by rape and other forms of sexual violence.

This is still happening today.

via Ben Affleck – Ben Affleck: How the United States can help secure Congo.

Lessons from Ireland’s economic collapse

Ireland may have saved civilization at one time, but now Ireland may be pulling down the European economic system.  Robert Samuelson explains what is going on with the Irish economic collapse and the European bailout of yet another country in the Euro-zone:

That Ireland, after Greece, has come to grief is ironic. Until recently, it was admiringly dubbed the Celtic Tiger for emulating Asian countries in attracting foreign investment – Intel and others – and achieving rapid export-led growth. From 1987 to 2000, annual economic growth averaged 6.8 percent; unemployment fell from 16.9 percent to 4.3 percent. But then solid growth gave way to a housing boom and bubble whose collapse left Irish banks awash in bad loans.

One cause was easy credit occasioned by the euro. With its own currency, Ireland could regulate credit. If it seemed too loose, the Central Bank of Ireland could raise interest rates. Adopting the euro meant Ireland surrendered this power to the European Central Bank (ECB), which set one policy for all euro countries. The ECB’s rates, though perhaps correct for France and Germany, were too low for Ireland and some others. Moreover, financial markets pushed rates on government bonds of euro countries down to lower German levels. In 1995, Ireland’s rates were more than a percentage point higher than Germany’s; by 2000, they were almost identical. . . .

So now the reckoning. In Ireland, the burst housing bubble left a massive budget deficit and lifted unemployment to 14 percent. Most European economies suffer from the ill effects of some combination of easy money, unsustainable social spending and big budget deficits. Countries are interconnected, so there are spillover effects. European banks – led by British, German, French and Belgian banks – have $500 billion in loans and investments in Ireland, reports the Financial Times. Large losses could snowball into a broader banking crisis.

Europe’s challenge is no longer just economic. It’s also social and political. Cherished values and ideals are under assault. The euro, intended to nurture unity, has bred discord, as countries assign blame and argue over sharing costs. The social contract is being rewritten, with government benefits and protections being cut.

via Robert J. Samuelson – In Ireland’s debt crisis, an ominous reckoning for Europe.

A single currency set by a central authority, indifferent to individual country’s economy sounds like an experiment that didn’t work.  This is another kind of argument for federalist-style de-centralization.

Diplomatic catastrophe

Wikileaks is releasing to the public a quarter of a million classified documents.  This latest batch isn’t so much about atrocities in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  It mainly consists of confidential reports by diplomats that contain unflattering and sometimes snarky comments about world leaders, including important allies.  The reports lack “diplomacy.”  As a result, we have a diplomatic catastrophe on our hands.

For a sampling of what they contain, here is a list of breathless headlines from the Drudge Report.  Go there for links to the articles:

USA RACES TO LIMIT WIKILEAKS DAMAGE…

250,000 State Dept. cables cover Iran, NKorea, Putin… MORE

Reveal: Iran ‘smuggled arms’ to Hezbollah on ambulances…

Reveal: Hillary Clinton ordered diplomats to spy on UN leaders…

Reveal: Iran obtained missiles from NKorea…

What America REALLY thinks of world leaders…

MOST EMBARRASSING, DAMAGING DISCLOSURE IN DECADES…

Clinton Calls Leaks A Global ‘Attack’…

AWKWARD: Clinton heads abroad, will meet world leaders dissed in cables…

Reveal: Saudis repeatedly urge US attack on Iran…

SENATORS: PROSECUTE THE LEAKERS!

NYT EXPLAINS: DECISION TO PUBLISH…

Now Australian police investigate Assange…

France: Leaks threaten democracy…

Rep King: Website leaks are terrorism…

Holder orders criminal investigation…

PALIN: Obama admin’s handling ‘incompetent’…

via DRUDGE REPORT 2011®.

One could make a case for leaking documents that cover up misdeeds.  But it’s hard to imagine what good it would do to leak documents that just embarrass people needlessly.  Diplomats do need to be able to give their superiors candid assessments without worrying that they will show up on the internet and in the world’s newspapers.

North Korea attacks South Korea

North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing two and wounding 19.  South Korea has mobilized its military and is threatening retaliation.

The massive artillery barrage launched by North Korea on Tuesday forced its southern neighbor into a state of emergency, with fighter jets put on high alert and the Seoul government threatening “stern retaliation.”

An estimated 1,700 civilian residents of the area shelled by North Korea escaped to bunkers, while South Korean President Lee Myung-bak convened an emergency meeting of security ministers. Television footage showed plumes of smoke rising from the island of Yeonpyeong, which lies near the disputed maritime border separating North and South Korea.

Officials said the North had fired an estimated 200 artillery shells onto Yeonpyeong, which lies in the Yellow Sea about 72 miles west of Seoul and seven miles off the North Korean mainland. Most of the shells landed on a military base, killing two South Korean marines, wounding at least 19 other people and setting more than 60 buildings ablaze.

The South returned fire with about 80 shells from its own howitzers.

In an official statement, government spokesman Hong Sang-pyo called the North’s action a “clear military provocation.” In the United States, a White House spokesman said President Obama was “outraged” by North Korea’s “provocative” action, adding that the nation stands by South Korea.

via North Korea fires artillery at South Korean island of Yeonpyeong.

Not too much Islam, too little Christianity

Lutheran pastor’s kid Angela Merkel, now the chancellor of Germany, had some striking things to say about the immigration debate in that country:

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans debating Muslim integration to stand up more for Christian values, saying Monday the country suffered not from “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity.”

Addressing her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, she said she took the current public debate in Germany on Islam and immigration very seriously. As part of this debate, she said last month that multiculturalism there had utterly failed.

Some of her conservative allies have gone further, calling for an end to immigration from “foreign cultures” — a reference to Muslim countries like Turkey — and more pressure on immigrants to integrate into German society.

Merkel told the CDU annual conference in Karlsruhe that the debate about immigration “especially by those of the Muslim faith” was an opportunity for the ruling party to stand up confidently for its convictions.

“We don’t have too much Islam, we have too little Christianity. We have too few discussions about the Christian view of mankind,” she said to applause from the hall.

via Merkel: Germany doesn’t have “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity” | Analysis & Opinion |.

End of the welfare state?

England’s coalition government is getting tough on welfare.  As are other European nations:

Britain announced the most radical overhaul in decades Thursday to its once-generous welfare system, pledging harsh penalties for those who refuse jobs and community work service for the unemployed in return for benefit checks.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith unveiled sharp changes to the country’s cradle-to-grave social safety net, which was first introduced after World War II to better protect newborns, families, the jobless and the sick.

Critics have long said the British system offered hefty benefits unavailable to other citizens across Europe, the U.S. and other major economies — encouraging some people to snub modest jobs in favor of an easy life on handouts.

“The message is clear. If you can work, then a life of benefits will no longer be an option,” said Prime Minister David Cameron, whose government last month announced it would slash benefits payments by 18 billion pounds ($29 billion) under a four-year package of spending cuts worth 81 pounds ($128 billion).

Under the new plan, many of the 5 million people who claim jobless benefits in Britain will be ordered to regularly do four weeks of unpaid community work to remain eligible for their 65 pounds ($105) weekly welfare payment. The stints could include manual labor tasks like removing graffiti or gardening in public parks.

Unemployment claimants routinely also receive other welfare payments to help with housing costs and raising children.

The plan is the centerpiece of Cameron’s legislative program, and one of the key elements of his strategy to fix so-called “Broken Britain,” his election slogan for the social problems that he says have blighted the nation’s prospects.

Duncan Smith said under his reforms, those who turn down job offers, fail to show up for job interviews or decline to take part in community projects face tough punishments. Benefits will stop for three months on a first offense, for six months for the second time and for three years after a third breach.

The system is still much more lenient than that in Spain, where a third offense means a person loses their welfare payments for good.

Duncan Smith insists the changes are not just to reduce the country’s budget deficit but are meant to jolt a group of around 1.4 million Britons who have been without a job for about a decade.

“For too long, the success of our welfare system has been judged by the number of people who are on benefits,” said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. “Our welfare system should be judged by the number of people who are off benefits and into work.”

Britain’s reforms echo a program by Sweden’s center-right government to get more people into the work force and reduce the number of benefit-takers.

Sweden’s motto — “it should pay off to work” — was echoed by Duncan Smith.

via Off the sofa! UK gets tough on welfare.


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