Narrowly Escaping World War 3

New York Times

The fate of the entire world was decided in the conference room of the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (MCMFA) yesterday evening. As China and the United States inched closer to an all-out war, the ministers in MCMFA were struggling to prevent a conflict that would have cost the lives of thousands, if not millions of soldiers and civilians alike.

The Panama Canal has always been a strategic goldmine, allowing hundreds of freighters and passenger vessels to pass through daily. Unfortunately, some of these ships belonged to the recently established, infamous, and widely feared drug cartel: Frontera Libre. This has led to much discussion among the delegates of MCMFA about tighter control measure surrounding the canal.

But last night, the ministers received even more shocking information. China had invaded the Panama Canal for its own use. When approached by the ministers, a representative told the committee that the national superpower was willing to go into a nuclear war with any nation daring to attack them over the canal.

In an appalling report from the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), it was revealed that an organization known as Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC), supported by numerous countries represented at the conference, had been acting as a middleman for information and arms between China and the Frontera Libre.

At the height of the scare, the United States and China found themselves playing an extremely dangerous game of chicken, with the lives of both of their citizens hanging in the balance, while the other ministers fought to find a diplomatic solution. Thankfully, the committee was able to pass Directive 7, which outlined a comprehensive plan to deal with the invasion, while risking as few lives as possible.

“We want to avoid a nuclear war.” Stated the minister of foreign affairs for the nation of Uruguay shortly after the reports arrived. This quote arrived among calls from other ministers to act against China militarily. The strongest supporter to instigate war with China? The United States, who’s minister was the only one to vote against the decision to grant China access to the canal, ending the standoff.

In an open statement, the minister from the United States had previously told the room “China is working as a terrorist organization.”

If the US had gathered an army to attack the Panama Canal, this would breach Panama’s sovereignty as a nation, and begin what could have been a long and bloody war with China. Because of Article 5 of the NATO treaty, if war had been launched between the US and China, all nations allied with the United States under NATO would be obligated to join the war on its side.

“The canal is open to all business; Chinese, American, European.” Spoke the minister of foreign affairs for Panama, an answer that seemingly satisfied the Chinese Representative. While the United States was clearly not satisfied with the diplomatic solution, there was some amount of celebration between the other ministers after the 14 to 1 vote officializing the diplomatic answer.

China was promised the ability to use the canal just as other nations were able to, even with the possibility of its smuggling of arms and supplies for Frontera Libre. In return, the citizens of the countries involved get to live a war-free life for another day.

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Combating Corruption and the Importance of the Whistleblower

Yonhap News Agency

“Sometimes the scandal is not what law was broken, but what the law allows” – Edward Snowden

Kim Gwang-ho knew what he had to do, and was willing to fly across the ocean to do it. He also knew the risks involved – his job, his reputation – but he still knew that he could not stand back as he watch an injustice of a massive scale unfold.

So Kim flew to the United States to whistleblow on Hyundai Motor Company’s massive cover-up of a defect in the engine of over 200,000 cars.

South Korea is not a country characterized by whistleblowing, but not for the lack of laws. Especially following the election of Moon Jae-In, an ex-human rights lawyer, press freedoms have been on the rise. In fact, in his first days in office, he gave a press conference where he spoke but then allowed questions which his aides answered candidly and without a script. Although perhaps routine for those reading this internationally, following the rule of Park Geun-Hye, this was a massive step forward. President Park had limited her press conferences to perhaps one or two a year, with scripted questions and scripted answers.

The South Korean government also provides protections for those who do whistleblow. South For instance, Korea’s Act on the Protection of Public Interest Whistleblowers guarantees that whistleblowers cannot be fired, undergo disciplinary action, or suffer a drop in pay. The Act defines a protected whistleblower as any person who reports that a violation of the public interest has occurred or is likely to occur, a violation of public interest being any act that could harm public health and safety or a misuse of the trust that citizens put in corporations or the government, extending to breaches of the law.

One of the largest arguments governments around the world throw out time and time again when confronted by the fear of leaks is to respond with the words “national security” which for some reason, have the power to instill an irrational panic in the ears of the listeners. This should simply not be the case for two reasons.

One, governments have a tendency to over exaggerate national security claim to defend themselves. This could be seen in the Edward Snowden case when the NSA declared that the bulk collection of American data was essential to preventing dozens of terror attacks. This was blatantly false and the two were unrelated, which was why a White House panel concluded in late December of 2013 that the program was “not essential in preventing attacks.” In fact, Thomas Blanton of George Washington University reported that between 50-90% of what the United States government classifies is either over classified or should have never been classified in the first place. Most United States information can be safely leaked, contrary to what the government claims

Second, a national-security only mindset just sets up the stage for a police state. In a police state, national security considerations come first above all rights. This is why police states tend to not be good states to live in. To truly have a functioning society, with the right balance between rights and security, both need to be taken into consideration.

In fact, even if one disregards the need for rights in addition to security, attempting to stifle leaks at reporter level simply can’t accomplish anything. Thanks to the shift to digital media and an open internet where anyone can publish anything in seconds, the mass media no longer holds such an integral role. However, if you do believe that leaks are bad and harm national security, this is dangerous. Now, if a newspaper turns a whistleblower away, the whistleblower can simply turn to foreign governments or organizations like Wikileaks to publish. However, domestic and established newspapers are necessary for the editing process. As Dean Banquet, a former editor at the Los Angeles Times explains, when it comes to deciding if to publish a leak or not, newspapers take into account who will be affected, the national security consequences, and more, to see if publishing it will ultimately benefit the people. The danger with letting other countries publish this information is that they have no similar ties as do those domestically based news sources and are more likely to publish information with damaging capabilities.

Whistleblowing is essential, at both the corporate and national level, as is the necessity of the press being the one to publish the information. Restrictions at either end have consequences. Laws designed to prevent whistleblowing stop more good leaks than prevent “bad” ones and the threat of punishment to either party accomplishes indirectly what government censorship accomplishes directly.

As for Kim? Hyundai ultimately recalled the cars. Kim also got his job back. He is happy about his decision. After the recall he explained, “At first my wife asked me not to do it. … But I‘m stubborn, and persuaded her that the problems will be buried forever without my confession.”

A New Day in Indian Politics

The Hindu Logo

Today, the Indian government declared a state of emergency. Today, the Indian government declared all political parties banned. Today, the Indian government declared a suspension of the rights of humans.  Today, the Hindu stood privy to one of the most well-kept government secrets of Indira Gandhi’s reign. Unfortunately, today the Indian government also declared a suspension of the freedom of the press in the country. Alas, we are censored.

This means that it would be a bad idea for any Indian newspaper to reveal information to the public that could be detrimental to the glowing image of the government.

Here at the Hindu, we encourage other news agencies and try to cooperate rather than compete with them, and so we decided to make sure that every agency has a clear understanding of what not to do – just in case.

For example, the Indian public must never, ever know that their government has been attempting to suppress the reports of violence coming from the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. They must also never find out that the reason for this suppression is so that the government can covertly support the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), the dominant militant group causing the terror. (Keep in mind that, although we have proof, an official statement on this matter has not been released to the public yet. This is simply a leak – something else that we implore news agencies to steer clear of.)

They must not know that 12 nations, including the United States of America, have condemned Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s rule, and no mention should be made of the document that these nations signed to legitimize their condemnation.

News of the attack on the Golden Temple of Amritsar should not be released under any circumstances, because this would only upset the Indian people, especially the Sikhs, who are still so fragile after the independence struggle, which ended 30 years ago.

If the people knew these things, they could start having opinions of their own about our government, and (God forbid!) could even start acting on them.

We hope that all Indian journalists take our advice; however, if anyone is under the impression that the Indian public has the right to know these things, we have separate words for you: pack your bags, because you may just find yourself a guest of the government for a few days. You can ask our editor about his experience – he gave the hospitality a two-star review.

All talk of investigation into Indira Gandhi’s electoral malpractice has disintegrated; however, this morning’s announcement of emergency gave the country the answer it needed. The Indian Congress Working Committee is attempting to move a Vote of No–Confidence against the Prime Minister, however it is unlikely that the motion will pass as the committee is split right down the center on the matter, with Prime Minister Gandhi’s own son, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, leading the opposition.

A complicated and uncertain period in Indian history spreads out before us. It is hoped that a quote from H.K. Desai will put things into perspective: “Speak your mind, whether you speak in favor of the government, or against. Just speak. Remind yourself of our 200-year independence struggle and ask yourself, ‘What were we struggling for?’”

Egypt’s Fate: Morsi-fied or Mummified?

Al-Ahram Logo

Feb 13th, 2013, Al Ahram

President Muhammad Morsi’s Cabinet of Egypt, set in 2012-13, is faced with the dual agenda of solving Egypt’s domestic problems following the Arab Springs Revolution of 2011 and sorting out conflicts in Egypt’s foreign policy with Ethiopia and Israel, in context of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project (GERDP) on the river Nile.

Currently, Al Ahram feels that not only is there disunity in the Cabinet itself, but there are also serious rifts in Morsi’s relations with his Cabinet. A majority of ministers was against Morsi’s “undemocratic” Constitutional Declaration. In a Press Conference conducted by an Al Ahram correspondent in the Cabinet, highly valuable information was uncovered: the Ministers of Media and Interior had covertly conspired to make Egypt a police state, the Minister of Religious Endowments had secretly siphoned off money from the Cabinet treasury to fund extremist groups, and the Minister of Interior had threatened to take strict military action against President Morsi if the Constitutional Declaration was not revoked.

Thus, the Al Ahram cartoonist, Gomaa Frahat, has come up with this propaganda poster, because the situation in Egypt is uncertain in a disturbing way. Morsi’s government is walking the tightrope when it comes to the support of the Cabinet and the people. This poster aims, in no way whatsoever to defile President Morsi’s government. In fact, it is a means to notify the government about the confusion in the minds of the Egyptian public.

 

 

 

The Power of a Name

Yonhap Logo

On the way out the door after breaking yet another crisis to the long-suffering Politburo of Vietnam, the staff member whispered something to the Director.

The Director turned around slowly, hardly able to bring himself to speak. With more effort than his delegates had mustered during the entire conference, he managed to extract a few words.

“Is a Hannah here?”

That was it. The crisis dissolved.

No longer was it members of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Vietnam sitting in the room. No longer was the flag of Vietnam, with its one proud star, an emblem of the strength of communism. No longer was the table the comrades sat around the epicenter of a growing conflict that would historically go on to take over a million lives.

All that was left was a bunch of sweaty teens pretending to be older than they really were. The flag was just a cheap plastic banner affixed to the wall with scotch tape that had the tendency to fall down when things got too heated. And the table was just a table in Beacon E on the third floor of the Sheraton in Boston.

The teens sat in silence.

“Who is Hannah?” one of them finally offered when no one acknowledged the name.

The Director looked as though he had woken with a start. “Oh, she must be an HMUN staffer.”

The crisis resumed.

An Ostentatious Fashion Statement: Is there more to it than what meets the eye?

Al-Ahram Logo

January 26th, 2013

Jamaima Maqsoud, the wife of the Minister of Media, Salah Abdel Maqsoud, is making quite the buzz in town, with her dazzling fashion statement. Her skin-tight Prada dresses and pastel-coloured Chanel scarfs have been the talk of many fashion magazines. She carries herself with voguish nonchalance in her sky-high Jimmy Choo stilettos and grand Cartier jewelry. Al Ahram correspondents have been keeping an eye out for Jamaima Maqsoud, what with all the publicity she’s garnered in a short span of time.

Jamaima Maqsoud has been spotted on more than one occasion, entering and exiting mosques in Cairo in a Lamborghini. She has also been caught on camera, socialising at high teas with her upper class fashionista friends. These activities have all started as recently as one month ago, with the start of the new year 2013.

What puzzles us at Al Ahram is how Jamaima Maqsoud has spent so much money, supposedly more than what was spent in her wedding in the Maldives, in such a short span of time. The new year seems to be a bit too good for the Minister of Media and his wife. How did the Minister of Media amass such wealth, when the Cabinet is finding it hard to fund food, fuel and other resources for social upliftment of the general public? How is there such a sudden and vast disparity in the expenditure of the Minister of Media’s wife and that of the Cabinet of Egypt’s in twenty-five days? Something definitely seems amiss.

On more probing, we at Al Ahram have found something shocking. This information seems to be too related to the Minister of Media’s influx of wealth to be a coincidence. An anonymous source has tipped Al Ahram that there is a mole in the Cabinet, who is leaking confidential information to parties that definitely do not have Egypt’s best interests in mind. This corrupt Minister must also be embezzling money from the treasury, and that is most likely why there is financial instability in the government and a dearth of financial resources for the public.

Although this connection may sound speculative and sensationalist, Al Ahram feels that it is its duty as a newspaper that has President Morsi’s best interests in mind, to inform him and the public of this information. Al Ahram urges President Morsi himself to carry out a thorough investigation of all ministers in the Cabinet, particularly the Minister of Media, to put all rumours to rest about the mole in the Cabinet.

Perhaps there is something more to Jamaima Maqsoud’s ostentatious fashion statement than what meets the eye.

 

 

Indira Gandhi Under Investigation

The Hindu Logo

Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, has finally – and by her own Working Committee – been accused of electoral malpractice. The Committee has decided to conduct an investigation of the Prime Minister to prove the allegations against her – election fraud, bribery, and use of brutality against opposition. This is a huge step towards a stronger, healthier India. The only problem is that we don’t know when the investigation will begin, which leads to another concern – when will it end? – and arguably the biggest concern of all – how will it end?

The Hindu has always been unafraid to challenge authorities that could be working against the interests of its people. We were brought into existence to defend India’s rights, and we will continue to do so until there is no India left to defend. This sentiment has gotten us in trouble in the past, but it came through for us yesterday, when we were invited to sit with the Indian Congress Working Committee as they discussed the Prime Minister’s growing aggression.

First the English, now Gandhi. The Indian people spent nearly 200 years protesting against the British colonization of India, against British discrimination and against oppression. Today, India is an independent nation, yet where do we stand? Somehow, still oppressed. After decades, we overcame the cruel, demeaning policies of the British. We had faith in the future, faith in our leaders, and faith that we would finally have peace. Instead, we have poverty, corruption, and controversy.

It was N.S. Reddy who requested that this report be made public, and with the rumours of Emergency flying around the country, the Hindu was more than happy to oblige, hasty even, because a state of emergency in the country would amount to the suspension of the freedom of the press.

At this point, an Emergency is almost certain (if it wasn’t already before), considering the latest developments in Prime Minister’s inner circle. That’s right – she knows. She knows about the investigation. In fact, she must have been expecting it as the committee received a message before it adjourned, directly from PM Gandhi, urging them to “forget this unnecessary investigation, and focus on the sustainability of the country”. It seems like committee should do the exact opposite, especially after such defensive words.

Most members had the same opinion, except for Narasimha Rao who spent 15 minutes practically chanting, “sustainability”. The rest of the committee took very little notice of him though – they waited respectfully for him to conclude, and then immediately proceeded to discuss whether the investigation should be privately or publicly run.

The one thing that every committee member agrees on is that things don’t look so good for India right now, what with Pakistan fighting at the border, an influx of Bengali refugees and a possible impeachment on our hands. The Hindu promises to give its readers as much insight into the situation as it can, for as long as it possibly can. Let’s just hope that we don’t wake up tomorrow morning and find our country in an Emergency.

The Morsi-Meter: Are Tweeters being given too much power?

Al-Ahram Logo

Twitter is an online news and networking service where users post and interact through 140-charactered messages known as “tweets.” Twitter in Egypt, however, seems to be grossly overstepping its boundaries, Al Ahram believes.

A group of Egyptian “activists” have taken it upon themselves to unfairly pressure the newly formed Morsi government by creating a Morsi-Meter that tracks the government’s progress in the first 100 days. The “activists” tweet completely unrelated events that will create nothing but hysteria in an already fearful people.

From ambiguous tweets like “Reports of heavy congestion at government-rationed bread lines, which have caused five fatalities” and “Protests have been occurring in Mansoura, Ismailia and Suez” to “Al Ahly FC secures 7th Champions league title with a 3-2 win against Tunisian esperance,” there is no connection established in the events. Since there is a restriction of characters — only 140 per tweet — there is no clarification for the news. This invariably will cause confusion. The protests in Mansoura and other places have not been validated with the reason behind them. Al Ahram is strongly against this release of partial information, which can galvanise a crowd in the wrong way.

Twitter has become a lethal weapon to cause unnecessary chaos in the public, in more cases than one in the past, and it seems to be doing just that right now. Earlier last year, in January, there was a revolution against the Mubarak regime. With ridiculous hashtags like “#Jan25,” Twitter facilitated a platform that mobilised protesters in the Tahrir Square by inciting fear in the public — to an extent that became harmful to the lives of Egyptian people. This is sensationalization of news.

We at Al Ahram feel that a platform like Twitter commands an unhealthy power over and exploits the emotions of the public. We believe that such sources of information should be deemed unreliable. For any actual, unhyped information relating to matters of the government, we request Egyptians to read newspapers, like ours.

 

Ministers of Foreign Affairs Shaken as One of Their Own is Assassinated

New York Times

“[I’m] at a loss for words.” The minister from Guatemala issued the statement during a hectic unmoderated caucus, “Right now we are not debating on how to get him back, but if to get him back.”

The shocking news hit the desks of 16 ministers of foreign affairs earlier today, as they were gathered for their meeting to solve world crises such as drug cartels and terrorist organizations. They learned that the minister of El Salvador, who had previously been a strong voice in the conference, had been kidnapped by members of the Los Zetas, a drug cartel based in Mexico.

A representative of Los Zetas has brazenly approached the remaining ministers and offered them a simple but troublesome deal: their colleague returned alive in return for a large shipment of militaristic drones. The representative also indicated that he was a leader and high up in the organization and that he had “no reason” to kill the Minister– a statement that the other ministers took for granted.

Even when the Los Zetas leader arrived in a vest with a bomb attached, the ministers still struggled over negotiations. They refused to comply outright to the demands of the cartel, ultimately resulting in the death of their friend.

While the minister was in custody of Los Zetas, the New York Times received exclusive information that he was shot in the leg, denied medical attention, and starved of food and water. When the news hit the conference, there was a moment of solemn silence before an unidentified minister announced, “They should have shot the other leg.”  

There is no doubt that this kidnapping is evidence of a much larger breach in security, and it even points to the existence of a mole sitting in on the conference: a fact which seemed quite clear to the ministers whose hearts were still beating. However, since the attempts to trace the Los Zetas member’s call were ultimately fruitless, and no other investigations have been made, it is unclear whether the alleged leak will ever be clearly identified.

Calls were made for “more transparency” between nations. This seems paramount now that the consequences of inaction have been made clear.

All this is happening just after receiving word that the minister of Panama’s wife, who was presumed to have been kidnapped by Los Zetas, has in fact defected to join the cartel. She has been feeding information to Los Zetas, possibly as the suspected mole, in return for wealth and protection.

While it is impossible to predict what will happen next, it is clear that the ministers, now joined by the minister of foreign affairs from Argentina, are trying their best to identify and eliminate possible terrorists – even under the threat of assassination.