School Shooting

A lot of tragic events has happened this past semester from the shooting in New Zealand to the bombing in Sri Lanka. While I’m not saying those are not equally as important and devastating, the school shooting at UNC shocked me the most. Maybe it is because the incident occurred on their last day of class, and I, myself, was in the last week of classes as well, but it hit close to home. It is sad to know that this sort of violence doesn’t just occur in the US. A few months prior, there was a school shooting in Brazil where 5 students were killed. It made me think that this could have occurred in any campus, even my campus and there would have been no effective way to prevent it. It is sad that we now live in a time where school shootings have to be prepared for. I remember back in elementary school the only drills we practiced were the fire drill, tornado, and earthquake. But, as I graduated to middle school and then to high school, we were shown a video about the Columbine shooting and then we gradually had regular drills for what to do in case we had an active shooter in the building. Every student in my high school is issued a student ID during registration before school starts. Even though we had them, we never really used them unless it was for standardized testing. That all changed after the Sandy Hook shooting. It then became mandatory that all students must be always wearing their ID on a lanyard around their neck and must be always visible and doors between school buildings would now be locked so students must show their ID to a camera in order to be let in. While some students found creative ways around the regulation such as printing their ID on a t-shirt and wearing said shirt around, it was sad how this was now part of the daily routine. Teachers in first period now had the responsibility to check that every student had their ID with them every single day. Now in college, I still carry my ID everywhere to be let into buildings and for exams, but on such a large and open campus, there is no way to prevent a person with bad intentions to getting on campus. Just this semester, I had to listen to multiple professors at several different points throughout the semester to address another school shooting, thankfully elsewhere, and one professor even spent precious lecture time to discuss logistics on what to do if an active shooter entered our classroom. It is sad how frequently school shootings are occurring. I don’t know if they are occurring more, or if the media is reporting these types of incidents more publicly. A school should be a safe environment to teach the future generation. Instead, it has turned into a place of potential fear. 

International Topic: Yellow Vest Protests in France

Protests began November 17 in France in response to President Macron’s announcement of an increase in fuel taxes. The protests have been deemed the “yellow vest” protests since many of the protestors are wearing yellow safety vests. The proposed fuel increase, which has since been tabled, was opposed most strongly by the rural population where the tax increase would be most felt.

The protests have become more widespread as the focus shifts to a more general protest against President Macron who many feel is out-of-touch with the ordinary people of France and acts on behalf of the wealthy.

Several people have died during the protests. According to NPR, three of those killed died in “traffic accidents caused by roadblocks set up by yellow vests” and another woman was killed after being struck in the face with a canister of tear gas. Hundreds more have been arrested. The protests have taken a violent turn. Some yellow vests claim that others have hijacked the protests and are corrupting the protests’ intentions.

The protests have been ongoing for more than four weeks. While numbers are increasing, there is no clear end to the protests in sight.

International Topic: Presidential Election in Cameroon

On October 7, 2018, Cameroon held presidential elections in which the current president, Paul Biya, won re-election. Biya has been in office since 1982. His re-election caused serious backlash and has escalated a growing divide between the anglophone and francophone regions of the country. Since 2016, Cameroon has experienced growing tensions between these two regions which, in addition to language differences, face major economic divides. The anglophone region is is in the minority, and many are protesting what they view as an unequal distribution of resources. Some are calling for a federal system to address the problem, while others are calling for independence and the formation of a new state called Ambazonia.

Election turnout was historically low — only 54%. And in English-speaking regions the turnout was only 10%, which can be explained by protests and escalating violence in those regions. As a result, some do not recognize the elections as valid.

Although this humanitarian crisis is not receiving much media attention, Cameroon will be a state to watch, especially with some reporters saying that the tensions between the regions are tipping the state toward civil war. Already the violence has caused the displacement of tens of thousands of Cameroonians.

For further reading, including a background on Cameroonian independence, please see below.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/22/paul-biya-cameroon-85-year-old-president-wins-re-election-landslide

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-africa-44459488/cameroon-crisis-explained

North vs. South Korea: An end to an era?

Recently, I, and the I am sure most of the rest of the world, were shocked to learn that North Korea and South Korea are willing to sit down together and discuss peace talks. Definitely experts in this area could claim that they saw it coming, but I was genuinely shocked to hear the news about this. I feel like that we have created this image of North Korea being a ruthless dictatorship that won’t bend to anyone else and their willingness to eventually end the Korean War was very out of left field.  This past few weeks marks a historical event where it was the first time a North Korean leader ever step foot in South Korea. That action, to me, represents a lot; the North Koreans are willing to be reasonable even to step foot into their enemy’s sovereign soil. One of the most important points in the meeting was to have a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. The fact that North Korea was willing to dismantle its nuclear program was shocking to me since I remember not even a few years ago when the America and the American public was worried about North Korea’s nuclear program becoming advanced enough to bomb other countries. This is such a historical and unique event that I can only watch and hope that events will unfold in the correct decision and maybe one day the two Korean countries might become unified again or at least be peaceful toward one another. The biggest question I have had is what caused North Korea to extend this temporary olive branch and will it be successful?

The Iran Deal

Well, it is that same time of year again where classes are done, finals are finished, and it is the last of the semester, and I’m gonna mass release my 5 blog posts right up to the last minute of the deadline. Days ago, Trump announced that he plans on pulling America out of the Iran Deal. The Iran Deal was a deal that was created in 2015 in order to curb Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for less sanctions. As part of Trump’s election campaign, Trump promised to remove the United States from this agreements. While I am highly uninformed on this topic, I believe that while the Iran Deal is not perfect, it is better than nothing in order to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power. I can not imagine a having a unstable country having nuclear weapons in an area long often troubled with conflict. According to a Washington Post article, the ramification of Trump’s decision has already occurred.  Tensions between Israel and Iran rose dramatically with Israel being put on “high alert”.  It will be interesting to see how Trump’s decision will affect the results of the Iran Deal and if the other countries are able to continue with the agreement. The one thing I do know is that the French president Emmanuel Macron is a psychic. He accurately predicted that the United States will pull out of the Iran Deal and his second prediction is that that decision will lead to war. It is now a simply waiting game and to see the events unfold to find out if Macron is a true fortune teller.

U.S. and North Korea. Oh my!

For the longest time, the United States has been on shaky ground with North Korea. With the current presidential administration, it has deteriorated even more. I don’t think that Trump has a filter between his brain and his mouth and realizes that he is the President of the United States and is the figure head of America. Watching the recent Twitter/speech back and forth insults between Trump and Kim Jong Un, while slightly funny and entertaining, is also unnerving. Two nuclear powers with one being the dictator of a country and known for executing people are flinging insults at each other. North Korea has been practicing their missile launches more frequently and has now announced that they are able to hit anywhere in the United States. That thought is pretty daunting. Instead of trying to negotiating peace and try to get on more friendlier terms, Trump simply retaliates by publishing an even more bold statement. While it is comforting to know that the United States is prepared to counterattack a North Korea missile, it doesn’t change the point that we are trying to aim for world peace, not start another world war or have a repeat of the Cold War. I am still waiting for the day when one of Trump’s comments about Kim Jong Un or North Korea finally crosses the line, angering Kim Jong Un to the point of finally carrying out actions he speaks of.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has had a very rough year. Located in the Caribbean Sea,  it got damaged by hurricane after hurricane with very little time to recover. The worse damage was caused by a direct hit by Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, around September 20th. It has caused massive blackouts across the island as well as many other problems such as no running water, food, and medicine. It is the aftermath that I believe caused devastation for its people.  It has taken an extremely long time for buildings and infrastructure to be restored and get its people back to a normal life.  After a MONTH after the hurricane hit, 88% of the population still doesn’t have electricity.  Puerto Rico is a United States territory, a little fact that many people often forget. When a natural disaster occurs in the U.S., people from all parts of the country pour in aid and money to help restore the area as quickly as possible. I feel like that Puerto Rico did not receive the same type of treatment that Houston got when Hurricane Harvey hit. A lot of this has to do with our national government and the current President. Trump, being his typical self, did a lot of big talk but little action or at least not enough. Even now, months after the disaster, Puerto Rico has a very long way to go before it has full restoration. I don’t think we understand the extent of damage done since it has been speculated that the number of deaths reported is drastically lower than reality. Hopefully, Puerto Rico will eventually recover and take this opportunity to improve buildings and infrastructure for the island.

International Topic: Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is undergoing a fascinating consolidation of power led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, son of the current king. Mohammad bin Salman is looking to earn support for when he eventually ascends to the throne by rooting out corruption and modernizing the country.

Recently, this means that he has placed members of the royal family and other wealthy businessmen under what is essentially house arrest in the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. They have been under arrest in the 5-star hotel since late October/early November while corruption investigations are pending. This shakedown is a bold display to earn support from Saudi citizens who disparage the corruption in the country, but this shakedown by bin Salman is itself a kind of facade — a display of power in the name of justice.

Mohammad bin Salman’s actions as of late have been incredibly bold, perhaps because he is trying to establish himself as a strong leader following the controversial way that he came to be the crown prince. Originally, bin Salman was not next in line for the crown. King Salman first named his brother Prince Muqrin crown prince in early 2015. A few months later, King Salman instead named his nephew Muhammad bin Nayef as crown prince and his son Mohammad bin Salman as deputy crown prince. In 2017, King Salman once again caused a shakeup and named his own son as crown prince. All the kings of Saudi Arabia have been sons of Ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, save for Ibn Saud himself who was the first king. Therefore, Mohammad bin Salman’s succession to the throne would be a major shift in tradition in Saudi Arabia, and it indicates that King Salman is looking to establish a hereditary line of succession in Saudi Arabia.

I, for one, am very interested in seeing how this consolidation of power plays out since it has such large implications for the future of the country and of the region.

 

Further reading on the subject:

  1. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-41905942
  2. http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-middle-east-42098201/inside-saudi-arabia-s-gilded-prison-at-riyadh-ritz-carlton
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/18/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-mohammed-bin-nayef-mohammed-bin-salman.html