Month: May 2013

Concealed Carry On Campus

The Texas State Legislature begins an immediate special session this morning devoted to redistricting. The special session also allows for other unpassed bills, like school vouchers and concealed carry on campus, to be added as amendments to the redistricting bill. The concealed carry bill, HB 972, was tabled in the Senate, after having passed the House in early May. The bill allows for the carrying of concealed handguns by licensees on university campuses. In this videocast three student leaders from the University of Texas discuss reasons for and against allowing concealed carry on campus. Their voices can also be heard on...

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eDiplomacy in the State Department: Pitfalls and Potential

It’s difficult to ignore the impact of social media on the U.S. State Department. Hillary Clinton was the first Secretary of State to fully embrace the potential of social media on diplomacy efforts, and since then, its use within U.S. diplomacy has exploded. The State Department is now a member of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, Google+, and several blogs, attracting more than 27 million followers collectively. Keeping track of these social media accounts is the responsibility of the Office of eDiplomacy. Its stated goal is to “[Advance] diplomacy by providing effective knowledge-sharing initiatives.” Obviously, social media has been a major influence in how the United Stated conducts diplomacy, but has it changed diplomacy for the better? This is not such an easy question to answer. The use of social media has clearly given the State Department some serious headaches. For example, in 2012 an American resident created an anti-Islam movie, entitled “The Real Life of Muhammad.” In response to the movie, senior public affairs officer Larry Schwartz of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, wrote a tweet condemning actions that abuse free speech to hurt other’s religious beliefs. Unfortunately, Schwartz’s statement was not seen as support for religious tolerance, rather a criticism of free speech. For instance, Mitt Romney condemned the comment as “an inappropriate apology and a failure to stand up for American principles such as freedom of...

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The True Cypriot Honest Broker

In 1974, Cyprus was split into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north. Turkey invaded Cyprus after supporters of unification with Greece organized a coup. Turkish Cypriots declared independence in 1983, but are only recognized by Turkey, which maintains 35,000 troops there. For the first time in a generation there is a fresh opportunity for Cypriot reunification. Past mediation by the United Nations, European Union and the United States has only perpetuated a stalemate on the island. There is hope, however, as a new party is taking a crack at the unsolvable. Who is this newcomer? Natural gas. As opposed to the well-intentioned brokers of this conflict, natural gas speaks in terms of cold, hard economics. Cypriot energy officials estimate the island’s reserves to be 1.7 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, and it needs an export market. Europe is far away, and the cost to transport would be high. Greece’s economy is in the doldrums, and demand for new sources of gas is low. The Arab world is politically unstable, and there is little economic development going on. That leaves one clear possibility: Turkey. Turkey’s economy grew at an impressive average of 6.8% over the last 10 years,[1] and it has never been thirstier for gas. Having no hydrocarbon resources of its own, Turkey is dependent on exports from the Caucasus and Central...

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Rios Montt Trial: Why His Trial Could Change the World

For the first time ever, a former head of state faces charges of genocide by his own nation’s judicial system.   And he deserves it.  Though he only ruled for 17 months, his rule has been deemed as one of the bloodiest chapters in the 30 years of the Guatemalan Civil War.  He authorized scorched earth campaigns, oversaw massacres and turned a blind eye to numerous accounts of sexual violence.       In 17 months he “accomplished” more than any of his predecessors.  Former President Rios Montt ordered the killing of more than a thousand indigenous people.  Guatemalan prosecutors charge Montt for the murder of 1,771 members of the Mayan Ixil group; the number of witnesses coming forward in the trial indicates that far more were victims of violence.  Until one year ago, Rios Montt hid behind the protection of a law he helped establish: immunity for public officials.  As a congressman, he enjoyed 12 years of that immunity.  After his term expired in January of 2012, he attempted to avoid charges, delay his trial and thwart justice.  Finally, he could run no more.  The voices of the past have caught him and will continue to speak out in Guatemalan courtrooms. Rios Montt’s conviction will change the world. Guatemala has a history of excusing injustice, not reporting crimes and of outright clearing the guilty of crimes committed.   Only 2%...

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The Syrian Crisis: Why Non-Intervention is for Ideologues and Opportunists

Since fighting broke out two years ago in Syria, roughly 70,000 have been killed and nearly a quarter of the nation’s 23 million people have been displaced.  Refugees flee into neighboring countries on a daily basis.  Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have all established camps near their Syrian borders to house these individuals and families.  Syrian refugees are destabilizing neighboring countries, especially fragile post-war Iraq. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are waging a proxy war against Iran via the Syrian rebels to establish regional dominance. Russia and China are blocking UN Security Council intervention initiatives so as to maintain economic interests.  Moreover, European governments fear that inaction on their part will lead to unrest among their own growing Muslim populations.  So regardless of libertarian and isolationist calls to the contrary, the Syrian conflict is no longer local; it’s increasingly global.  Why then, despite growing concern abroad and at home, has the United States stopped short of offering military support?  The Obama administration has valid fears.  After decade-long conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Washington balks at the opportunity to spend billions of dollars and countless American lives on another nation’s civil war.  Additionally, it’s possible that weapons could drift into the hands of radical Islamists.  It would be a nightmare for any administration to see U.S. anti-aircraft weaponry used against commercial airplanes.  There is one major flaw with this line...

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