Sunday, February 21, 2010

The 'New Poor'

Dear Readers,

I thought this NYT article was particularly prescient. It applies to my life and the lives of people I know.

It's important to me that people get a sense of what unemployed/marginally employed people are going through and how much need there is right now. Many people, including myself, have been employed at a rate that is lower than full time (and our bills!) for more than six months (I've been actively looking since Dec 2008, and have been out of grad school since June 2009), don't have health insurance (I do! Go here!), and are straining their respective social and financial credit to survive. I've been lucky enough to have a great family that could afford to support me for some of this period, great friends, a part-time job and the education/wherewithal to keep focused on the job hunt.

The article calls them the 'new poor': people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying on public assistance for the first time in their lives — potentially for years to come.

We don't have the infrastructure to take care of these people. What's worse, welfare and health insurance are such politically loaded topics. Far from being seen as things that any civilized nation should do for its people (my own view), these topics are being used against people--to the point where our veteran's don't get the care they need, our families don't get the care they need, people are being turned down for insurance based on their preexisting conditions...

So, to keep this post a little bit positive--tell me your job hunt stories! What is the wackiest thing you've done to get a job? What have you learned in this process? What questions would you like to answer?

My other posts about the job market:
Hurry Up and Wait
Searching For Disaster

Thanks for your time! Good luck in your searches!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Department of Homeland...Insecurity?

Dear readers,

Sorry to take a more sarcastic tone in this one--I am sure the Department of Homeland Security is doing great work, but this story was sent to me last week and I couldn't resist putting it out there.

DHS officers 'lost' 243 guns between 2006 and 2008. The majority of them were lost because the officers didn't secure them (what does that mean exactly? can my gun-toting friends help explain?). This doesn't really represent a lot of guns, but it's still kind of frustrating that our own officers are inadvertently arming criminals.


* Customs, ICE officers "did not always sufficiently safeguard their firearms," report says
* Of 243 guns, 179 were lost "because officers did not properly secure them"
* Guns were left in unlocked cars, fast food restaurants, bowling alleys
* Homeland Security responds by overhauling property management policy

Apparently, when people find guns, they keep them. I find that interesting. I wonder what the stats are on that?

Anyway, this reminds me of the story this past year when the US sent weapons and money to our allies in the interim government of Somalia, and the was shocked that the arms ended up in the hands of the militants that were/are our enemies. This occurred because the money ended up in the hands of the officers of the interim government, not the soldiers...and the soldiers, who still needed money, sold their weapons to the enemy/militants...arming the enemy. Anyone who knows anything about black markets could have told you this would happen.

It's amazing how much insecurity is caused just by us not paying attention.

Hope to hear your comments!

Two Important Events: Niger and Myanmar (Burma)

These stories were just posted by a friend of mine, but I want to make sure they get more exposure.

A coup/coup attempt is underway in Niger. "The country has gone through five constitutions and periods of military rule since it gained independence from France in 1960."

What will ECOWAS say/do? They've been pretty vocal that no coup-leadership/forced change of power will be recognized...
"The opposition also boycotted October 20 legislative elections, after which the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) suspended Niger as a member and the European Union put a freeze on its development aid."

Also,Burmese/Myanmar refugees are the victims of violence in Bangladesh.

"Described by the UN as one of the most persecuted minorities on earth, thousands of Rohingyas from Myanmar's northern Rakhaine state stream across the border into Bangladesh every year."

"Bangladesh recognises 28,000 Rohingya as official refugees, who live in official camps under the supervision of the UN.

This figure is a fraction of the estimated 220,000 unofficial refugees, MSF says.

There are an estimated 700,000 Rohingya in Myanmar, where they are not recognised as citizens and have no right to own land."

Thanks for reading. Please let me know if you have updates.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

UN CERF Funding

Dear Readers,

I am still just learning about different types of UN and government funding and so, if I make a mistake in this post, please point it out! I want to know more.

Here's an introduction that I received from a DEVEX Development Update email/newsletter.
"The Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) was approved by the General Assembly in December 2005, and was created to speed up relief operations for emergencies, make funds available quickly after a disaster and finance under-funded emergencies. Its funds are also made available to address the existing imbalance in global aid distribution which results in millions of people in so-called neglected or forgotten crises remaining in need. Since its inception, the CERF has allocated nearly USD 1.3 billion for humanitarian aid in almost 70 countries. "

Similar funding in the US defense world has received criticism for the very reason it was created--it moves a lot faster than regular funds. It (at least from my understanding of the US version) requires fewer checks and balances...and therefore sometimes gets misused, or in the case of Afghanistan, might cause corruption/conflict.

Here is the UN CERF homepage.

This fast(er)-moving money has been critically important in helping the earthquake victims in Haiti, as pointed out in this Relief Web article.

There are even YouTube videos about it! The second speaker brought up some good points about inefficiencies that need to be resolved.

This second article by IRIN News (I am unfamiliar with this news source) points out where some improvements need to be made.

So, it is great that money can move faster than a snail, but what are the checks and balances needed to keep things clear? If you know something about this, please let me know your thoughts!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An important reality check from Gaza.

“When you compare the US economy with ours and see how dependent we have become on the tunnels, I assure you that our scandal is much worse than Madoff.”

-- Omar Shaban, director of Pal-Think, an economic research institute in Gaza City, comparing the collapse of investments related to Gaza’s tunnel system to New York financier Bernard Madoff’s USD 65-billion Ponzi scheme. Some 4,000 Gazans who gave cash to middlemen and tunnel operators in 2008 as Israel blocked the overland passage of goods lost as much as USD 500 million after Israeli warplanes bombed the tunnels before and during the Dec. 27 to Jan. 18 Gaza offensive and the investments collapsed, Bloomberg reports. Now investors want their money back from Hamas, which runs Gaza. Hamas Economics Minister Ziad Zaza says about 200 people were taken into custody in connection with the tunnel investments; most have been released. Hamas is offering a partial repayment of 16.5 cents on the dollar using money recovered from Ihab al-Kurd, the biggest tunnel operator. The imbroglio over the 800 to 1,000 tunnels has deepened Hamas’s decline in public opinion in Gaza and highlights the Wild West nature of the underground economy that supports this jammed enclave of 1.4 million people. Top Hamas leader Ismail Haniya has not commented publicly on the losses to tunnel investors. “There is no transparency, no public records, no regulators, none of the mechanisms that would let you trace what happened to all the money that people invested in the tunnels,” Samir Abdullah, the Palestinian Authority’s former planning minister, told the news agency. “The smugglers provide essential revenue for Hamas.”

Global Development Briefing -- Tunnel Vision
This is from Devex's regular emails about events in the development field...they always have a thought-provoking quote.

The Tamils and the one won.

Dear Readers,

Well, most of you are probably familiar with Sri Lanka's 30 year civil war, full of hyper-nationalism, guerilla warfare, rape and violence. If you're not, this article gives an oversimplified summary of the past and important current events. Hindu against Buddhist, with Muslims caught in the middle. All on a tiny island with some of the highest education, literacy rates and equality for women in South Asia.

Well, hopefully this is the beginning of the end. All the best to the people of this beautiful place.


History of Technology gurus--can you help me figure out this puzzle?

Well, this blog post is more of a series of questions than opinions.

I read: Avoiding a Homeland Security Error That Could Leave the U.S. Flying Blind. This article talks about the pre-GPS system that is called Loran that is still used for geographical information by several US and foreign defense institutions and should be maintained/updated to serve as a back up when/if terrorists or other events interfere with our global positioning systems. Does anyone know anything about this?

What other behind-the-scenes systems should be kept? What systems need backups but don't have them? What is just obsolete? I guess this goes out to all my history of technology gurus out there! Can you help me? :)


Friday, February 5, 2010

End of the Week Blog list

Top Blog Posts according to Foreign Policy Blogs!

China might get health care reform before the United States! The plan is not full grown, but it's interesting to see the progress!

IS the IT world trying to scare us, too?

Another China story. Although, the 'selling arms to Taiwan to annoy the Chinese and remind them that we have military bases nearby' has been going back and forth for decades. However, this is unfortunate for the Taiwanese, who have been pretty successful at developing relations with China over the past few years.

In a refreshing turn of events--a story that is not about the US or China. Kenya! Back on the map! +checks and balances. -PM. What effect will this have on the standing 300,000 refugees from the political violence of two years ago, and what does this mean for the future of Kenyan politics?

Send me links to blog posts or news articles that you thought were interesting this past week!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Problem in Pakistan

Pakistan is in the news a lot today. The voices and advice are wide-ranging. From VP Biden saying early on that Afghanistan depends on what happens in India and Pakistan, to cries that 'Pakistan is not doing enough for us.'

I agree that, as one article from the Brookings Institute states Lashkar-e-Taiba is an important threat, and that the prevented attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh would have unleashed many negative repercussions on the already strained South Asian security situation. It would make U.S. calls on Pakistan to 'crack down' even more strident--which I think would be the wrong reaction.

I agree much more with another Brookings Institute article, which I referenced in my last post about how China and the US can work together with Pakistan.

The part I really want people to think on, is not so much how much pressure the US or China should put on Pakistan (I think Pakistan gets plenty of pressure, in the midst of troubled government, corruption, regular suicide bomb attacks of the Pakistani military itself, and its ongoing conflict with both India AND Afghanistan), but what can be done to help Pakistan move forward. In fact, I'd say taking a step back and letting Pakistan run its country might be a start. They're probably freaking out more than we (the US), and have plenty of problems to deal with. Considering that the US can't stop a terrorist attack when the father of the terrorist tries to turn him in and tells us directly about him, I don't think we should be casting the Pakistanis in such an ill light.

The first paragraph of the second Brookings article summarizes the problem.

Sorry I didn't copy/paste--the blog tool gave an error, I'm going to try and copy/paste the quote in a reply comment. It is important to realize that things aren't as simple as 'pressuring' or 'not pressuring.' Especially with our complicated history of funding islamic extremism (to counter Arab nationalism and Communism, respectively), we have to find ways to help without making things worse.

I look forward to your thoughts. Unfortunately, I only outlined a problem and didn't give you solutions.