Monday, 31 December 2007

2008 US election poll leaders (pre-Iowa caucuses edition)

This will probably be the last poll-related post until the January party primaries...

Iowa will hold its caucuses* on January 3rd. That makes this coming Thursday the most important date so far for the bagful of candidates hoping to become president.

The Des Moines Register's Iowa poll, lauded as the most accurate, came out tonight. Here are the results:

Barack Obama has stormed ahead of previous frontrunner Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, thanks, the Register says, new caucus-goers and independents. This might give Obama the national push he needs. John Edwards is a mere percentage point away from Clinton.

As you can see, Mike Huckabee has slightly widened his lead over second-place Mitt Romney in the Republican race. Giuliani is choosing to sit out the ever-important Iowa caucuses for a more national focus.

To find out more about how caucusing works, see the Des Moines Register's page on the Iowa caucus.


Nationally Clinton still maintains a relatively wide lead among the Democrats; Giuliani is still first among Republicans. Huckabee has done well in the polls, whereas Romney has invested most out of all the GOP candidates in both Iowa and another of the first primaries, New Hampshire, just to see his investment slip. As for Ron Paul, he's barely being mentioned in the mainstream.

Other points of focus:
  • The rise of Huckabee the Arkansas governor/Baptist minister in Iowa;
  • the vulnerability of Dem still-leader Clinton;
  • the hope for Edwards, strong against Republicans in Iowa;
  • GOP hopeful Thompson doesn't live up to dying hype;
  • Bhutto's death has used by Giuliani, Clinton, and McCain. Clinton argued for experience, Obama for judgement.

    See more primary stats on Slate's election scorecard and national averages on RealClearPolitics. Some people consider political trading more accurate than polls, since it just measures preference. One popular trading site is Intrade.

    Need help reading or understanding all these polls? The Washington Post published five tips from the directors of polling at WaPo and ABC. The tips include:
    1. Throttle back on the horse race.
    2. Consider the source.
    3. Watch for consistent change and a meaningful narrative.
    4. Don't be seduced by averages.
    5. Be skeptical of post-election scorecards.

    In these coming weeks, we will no doubt see several candidates fall as the top three or four from each party vie for the position of leader. Remember: things are far-from predictable in races this close and mixed. Let the '08 election games (truly) begin!

    * Correction: Word changed in title and blog post for accuracy. Iowa holds caucuses, not primaries.

  • Saturday, 29 December 2007

    The problems with Ron Paul

    He is treated like a god by many on the web. A independent-minded Republican representative from Texas, Ron Paul is thought to be a potential wonder candidate of the 2008 presidential election. I have crowned Paul 'the web candidate' due to the fact that most of his support comes from the internet, and most of his supporters spend much of their lives in cyperspace.

    Ron Paul is better than Bush (but that's not a very high standard, now is it?). However, he is an inexperienced paleo-conservative libertarian who wants to abolish everything from the IRS to FEMA — that's just not practical! He and his supporters seem to be living in their own dream world impervious to the reality that that kind of libertarianism doesn't work, especially in today's modern world. You cannot just shut yourself off from everything because of some bad experiences.

    If you thought the response to Hurricane Katrina was bad, how would getting rid of FEMA help? Sure thanks to incompetence and a slew of negative traits associated with the Bush administration FEMA did a terrible job in the Gulf Coast, but getting rid of the organization all together is not the answer. Imagine: under Ron Paul's ridiculous vision for America there would be no federal response to something like Katrina, many more would suffer and the conditions there would be far more abysmal as they were following Katrina in 2005.

    SO for all those praising Paul as the answer to America's political woes — he's not.

    What's so special about Ron Paul? Well, according to this Salon article...

    [Paul's] the only Republican candidate who wants to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and withdraw the U.S. Navy from the waters off the Iranian coast. He wants America to pull out of the United Nations, NATO, the International Criminal Court, and most international trade agreements. He wants to abolish FEMA, end the federal war on drugs, get rid of the Department of Homeland Security, send the U.S. military to guard the Mexican border, stop federal prosecutions of obscenity, eliminate the IRS, end most foreign aid, overturn the Patriot Act, phase out Social Security, revoke public services for illegal immigrants, repeal No Child Left Behind, and reestablish gold and silver as legal tender.

    Which of those do I consider meaningful? Nearly all of them. NATO, the ICC, FEMA, DHS, the IRS, Social Security... the list goes on. Ron Paul would be fine in the 1800s, in fact, he sounds like a good ol' 1890s Populist with the gold and silver idea, but his ideas wouldn't work this day in age. He wants to turn America into an isolationist, closed-off, libertarian haven — that kind of system just won't work in a culturally and economically globalized world. Isolationism isn't too much better than neoconservative interventionism. Ron Paul would work years ago, but not anymore. Under Paul, and without income tax, homeland defense and security, and social welfare, the US would be going back in time more than it has even under the Bush administration. I don't want that.

    Too all those hell-bent on rooting for Dr. Paul, I issue you this challenge: Explain to me how it would work if we got rid of FEMA, the IRS, the DHS, and other agencies that the United States would go to hell without?

    Ultimately, we don't no government, we need a better government

    Thursday, 27 December 2007

    Benazir Bhutto assassinated!

    BBC News:

    Pakistani former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated in a suicide attack.

    Ms Bhutto - the first woman PM in an Islamic state - was leaving an election rally in Rawalpindi when a gunman shot her in the neck and set off a bomb.

    At least 20 other people died in the attack and several more were injured.

    President Pervez Musharraf has urged people to remain calm but angry protests have gripped some cities, with at least 11 deaths reported.

    Security forces have been placed on a state of "red alert" nationwide.

    There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack. Analysts believe Islamist militants to be the most likely group behind it.

    Bhutto was playing a major role in Pakistan's hopefully democratic political future. She led the powerful opposition PPP party and recently returned from exile. This surprise-killing should be seen as a sign that instability is not over in Pakistan, even as Musharraf makes security laws more lenient after initiating emergency rule this fall.

    The fate of Pakistanis is as unclear as ever following following the death of one of their more famous political figures. She has escaped several near-death experiences over the past few months; I guess it was a matter of time before either Musharraf's camp of the Islamists killed her.

    I'm back

    My flight was delayed (we ended up waiting four hours for a flight only a bit over four hours) so I got back home at 4:30 AM last night. Needless to say I haven't had a great amount of time for blogging in the past couple days, but I do have some plans for posts in the last few days of this year...

  • Conflict Map (Iraq slightly downgraded; Lebanon political turmoil; Afghanistan steady...)
  • [The ever-popular] 2008 US election poll leaders Pre-primary edition. this will probably be the last post on polls until the January party primaries (the rise of Huckabee the Baptist minister/Arkansas governor/homophobe, weightloss guru, etc. in Iowa, the vulnerability of Dem still-leader Clinton, the hope for Edwards in Iowa, GOP hopeful Thompson doesn't live up to dying hype; Edwards strong against Republicans in Iowa; Romney's religion factor)
  • Pakistan
  • Religion in US politics (Romney and the religion test; past couple decades of religious lobby)
  • 305 men in legal limbo, the fates of whom will be decided by Americas highest court (Gitmo)
  • EU-Africa
  • McCain comeback
  • Ron Paul
  • Putin: Time's Man of the Year
  • My China trip:
    -developing cities
    -civilian population
    -political freedom
    -sites to see/landmarks/touristy stuff
  • More messed up US foreign aid
  • Thailand's return to democracy (?)
  • Kenya and other elections
  • Israel-Palestine

    Hope you all had a merry Christmas — if you celebrated it. I look forward to a new year of blogging.

  • Saturday, 22 December 2007

    Does freedom mean happiness?

    Apparently not.

    Stumbling and Mumbling reports the findings of a new report on the correlation between freedom and happiness. Among the points made:

    1. We're bad at forecasting our future tastes. In particular, we fail to foresee that we'll adapt to our new circumstances.
    2. We have positive illusions. We think we're better than we are; we exaggerate our ability to control our environment; and we are too optimistic.
    3. We value hard, quantifiable, things like money more than less quantifiable but important things - which might explain why people prefer the drudgery of long hours in factories to rural life.
    4. Because we're loss averse, and value what we have, we stay in situations where we're unhappy, like frogs who stay in water getting gently hotter until they boil to death.

    Blind optimism and poor foresight seem to be two of the major reasons we are less happy when free, arguments such as the one above assert.

    Are we really unable to make choices that maximize our happiness when presented with a wide array of choices? What does this say about our favored system of government, democracy? And what about choice and the free market? Ultimately, are we free humans really too inept to make the right choices? I do wonder whether there are better options. Perhaps we glorify freedom and democracy a bit too much — especially in the area of happiness — but what realistic conditions of existence would be better?

    Wednesday, 19 December 2007

    Bush tells everyone to back off on CIA tape probe


    The Bush administration wants a federal court and congressional committees not to pursue investigations into the destruction of videotapes showing CIA interrogations of two al Qaeda suspects.

    It says the inquiries would interfere with an ongoing probe by the Justice Department in collaboration with the CIA.

    Defense attorneys for some terror suspects have asked U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy to look into whether the tapes' destruction violated a June order.

    The measure requires the government to preserve evidence and information regarding detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    A bit disturbing, but not at all surprising. (See background.) The Justice Department has also dodged questions on the destruction of CIA tapes showing extreme interrogation — e.g. torture. The White House is strongly against all forms of oversight. One wonders what it has to hide...

    Tuesday, 18 December 2007

    Leaving for LA

    I will soon be departing for Los Angeles, California for a one week vacation. I should be able to catch up on blog posts there.

    Sunday, 16 December 2007

    Government transparancy enters the 21st century

    From Daily Kos:

    Americans had a hard time finding out where their hard-earned tax dollars went. Until 2 days ago.

    Now, thanks to, a site created by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 by Tom Coburn and Barack Obama, anyone can discover the pockets of federal dollars. The site tracks contracts, grants, earmarks, and loans.

    Check out the website for some interesting data. The Kos diary found
    7 examples (contracts with KBR/Halliburton, Tom Delay's pork, no bid contracts with defense contractors and even the government of Canada, spending on guided missiles, maintenance of dams, and stranger things including flags, perfumes, and hand tools).
    and there is much more shady funding out there — in addition to a lot, and I mean a lot, of pork. Naturally, data sensitive to national security (or "national security") is not included on the site. (I sort-of blogged about the reality of a website to track government spending a bit over a year ago.)

    Thursday, 13 December 2007

    The other side of China

    While my China trip was great — the people friendly, the culture vibrant, the food amazing (I've lost weight since being home), and the sights breath-taking — there were three major things that bothered me. My three Ps: poverty, politics (i.e. lack of political freedom), and pollution. None of those are unique to China; of course all three are present in many other nations around the world. But if I had to pick three negatives about that amazing country of 1.3 billion, it would be those.

    The above is a picture of a large slum right near a portion of the Great Wall in Qinhuangdao. Bordering the sprawl was what looked like a huge factory, seen in the upper-left of the image.

    Beauty and poverty, side by side; one, something China is eager to show off, the other is something that, under this government, goes unspoken.

    Even in major cities like Beijing it was not uncommon to see a modern, expensive building right next to a shack. This is an adjustment I had to make from my American viewpoint that poverty and luxury are often walled off from each other — sometimes literally.

    More China posts coming soon. Sorry for the delay!

    Tuesday, 11 December 2007

    A different kind of interrogation...

    The CIA head will have to answer some tough questions about the destruction of tapes showing torturous interrogation.

    The CIA director will face two days of questioning by the House and Senate intelligence committees in a probe into the agency's destruction of videotapes showing interrogation techniques used on terror suspects, panel leaders said.

    CIA Director Michael Hayden is set to appear in closed-door hearings Tuesday before the Senate panel and Wednesday before the House committee.
    U.S. officials said the recordings were made as "an internal check" on the CIA's use of harsh interrogation techniques, thought to include waterboarding -- which involves restraining a suspect and pouring water on him to produce the sensation of drowning. The practice has been considered torture since the days of the Spanish Inquisition and was prosecuted as a war crime after World War II.

    Here's what I would ask Hayden if I were in a position to do so:
  • Did you know about these tapes?
  • If so, did you learn of their destruction?
  • Did you give the order for their destruction?
  • Has your agency committed acts of torture?
  • Do you consider waterboarding to be a form of torture?
  • Will your independent investigation look into evidence of torture?
  • Why do you think the destruction of these tapes is not a serious matter?
  • What warranted — or could warrant — this destruction?
  • To your knowledge, did the tapes portray anything illegal — that includes torture?
  • Who gave the order to destroy the tapes? Was it really a low-level official?
  • How could you — or whoever destroyed the tapes — be blind enough to believe that they might not be used in future legal cases?
  • Do you know the extent of the Justice Department's knowledge of the tapes?
  • In your mind, is torture ever warranted? This is especially pertinent to the actions and atmosphere of your agency as an ex-CIA agent recently stated that the US had used torture, and, in his view, it worked. The agent's statement on torture directly contradicts your assertion that the CIA does not torture.

    There are of course more questions; but many of the above will doubtless not be asked, or at least go unanswered, over the next couple of days.

  • Monday, 10 December 2007

    The argument for speed over law in the fight against terrorism

    Should speed trump legality in America's 'war on terror'?
    Just as Elaine Scarry stated that the assertion that speed is necessary for security — e.g. 'not having time' to go through the courts or get a formal declaration war, which has not been done in the US since WWII — has taken power away from the people and given it to an increasingly centralized government (see "Citizenship in Emergency"), which doesn't always do the best thing with its power, it is easy to make the case that Vice President Dick Cheney and allies, such as close advisor David Addington, used speed and the daunting enemy of terrorism as an excuse for the creation of the unitary executive, among other things. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the White House went as far as ignoring Congress, the courts, and even its own departments (e.g. Justice) to get the national security policy it wanted. The need to counter terrorism in a speedy manner has been used by the Bush administration to justify programs like unauthorized NSA domestic wiretapping (ignoring the FISA court), or interrogation tactics that ignore the ruling of Congress and international law.

    Defending the homeland has become a battle against existing expectations of legal due process, governmental checks and balances, and personal freedom. As former Justice Department official Jack Goldsmith told Frontline,

    [The Bush administration] decided in the fall of 2001 that speed was more important than these other values. I can't say in the fall of 2001 that they were wrong. I don't know exactly what they thought they were going to do in military commissions, but early on the imperatives to get things done trumped the normal processes of deliberation and consultation. In emergencies that often happens. I think as time went on, the circumvention of the normal processes of deliberation and consultation, maybe the balance tipped; that speed and quick decision making may have been able to go slower on that in exchange for more deliberation and consultation.

    Detention and torture of terrorism suspects and warrant-less wiretapping, two infamous tools of the 'war on terror', both of which have been direct results of an argument for speed in the fight against an often-invisible, unorthodox enemy. The courts were too slow and Congress' restrictions too inconvenient for 'aggressive interrogation' not to be used on terrorism suspects — the information needed to be gotten, and fast, from the terrorists, supporters say. FISA was bypassed in the case of the wiretapping; the program's defenders said that the FISA court was too slow, and thus, the White House had to act without the consent of neither the legislature nor the judiciary. Communications are moving too fast for judicial oversight; terrorist attacks need to be prevented, beats the drum of former Bush administration legal architect John Yoo. Thanks to Democratic timidity, the NSA wiretapping program was made legal over the summer.

    If America is to continue as a (semi-)functioning democracy, her citizens should not let their rights be subdued for the sake of speed or supposed security. Scarry wrote in her article that,
    The most frequent argument used to excuse the setting aside of the Constitution is that the pace of modern life simply does not allow time for obtaining the authorization of Congress, let alone the full citizenry.

    Over six years after the 11 September attacks, speed has become the excuse for countless questionable actions taken by the president and his staff. No longer should anyone fall for it.

    Sunday, 9 December 2007

    America's commitment problem

    Over this weekend, committal issues arose at the Bali climate change meeting in Indonesia.

    The United States will come up with its own plan to cut global-warming gases by mid-2008, and won't commit to mandatory caps at the U.N. climate conference here, the chief U.S. negotiator said Saturday.
    Watson's comments reaffirmed that the Bush administration views its own talks as the main event in discussions over climate change.

    This is not only unfortunate for the UN's emissions cap plan, but shows how the Bush administration thinks: 'our talks are more important than the international ones'. Environmental groups say that Washington hopes to sideline and subvert international summits just as it stood alone as the only developed nation not agreeing to Kyoto.

    Meanwhile the EU agreed to reduce emissions 20% by 2020...
    Midway through the two-week Bali conference, many of the more than 180 assembled nations were demanding such firm commitments from Washington as well, as the world talks about a framework to follow Kyoto when it expires in 2012.

    Wednesday, 5 December 2007

    And the presidential candidates I agree with most are...

    Today I quickly tried out the Washington Post's new interactive candidate quiz to see who my views match up with most — apparantly.

    For the Democratic version I got a score of 12 for Edwards, 15 for Clinton, 21 for Obama, 1 for Dodd, and, finally, 4 for Richardson, making my ideal candidate Obama. However many of the options are the same, only phrased with different rhetoric (Iraq was the worst). On some issues, such as affermative action and Iraq, none of the options suited my views. Overall, Democratic standpoints were populist, geared towards middle and working class as they warn of rich elite; there wasn't much moderation, or at least as much as I hoped for.

    For the Republican (gasp!) version of the quiz, Giuliani (Mr. 9/11) was my candidate, if only because of social issues. On controversial social issues (e.g. abortion), Giuliani is often the only half-decent choice — but then even he takes much of the weight off his back by doing what many other candidates do: say 'leave it to the states'. My specific results were 6 points for McCain, 8 for Ron Paul, 9 for Huckabee, 5 for Romney, 7 for Thompson, and 20 for Giuliani. There were no options I felt comfortable choosing on such issues as overall priorities, immigration, or wealth/taxes. Like the reality of the GOP presidential front, my results were more evenly spread (almost neck-and-neck) than for the Dems. Some candidates have OK views on climate change, but all focus too much on national security and on cutting 'big government' without recognizing any consequences of such cuts.

    Tuesday, 4 December 2007

    The hyped-up Iranian nuclear threat

    Not to rain on the hawks' parade, but apparently Iran stopped nuclear weapons production back in 2003.

    In a blow to Bush administration hawks demanding military strikes on Iran, a US intelligence report reveals that Tehran's secret nuclear weapons programme was shut down four years ago.

    The finding which has come as a surprise to friends and foes of the US concluded: "We do not know whether [Iran] currently intends to develop nuclear weapons." That is in sharp contrast to an intelligence report two years ago that stated Iran was "determined to develop nuclear weapons".

    US officials said the report showed that the Bush administration was right to conclude that Tehran intends to develop nuclear weapons in the long term. They also said that Iran was forced to end its secret programme because of financial sanctions and diplomacy backed up with the threat of force.
    Perhaps peaceful means such as diplomacy and sanctions (creating political pressures within a country) work after all.

    The report is sure to cause a stir within the hawkish White House, but the NIE did put in a few good words about the Bush administration, just to ease the strain of conflicting views.

    Here are some facts about the National Intelligence Estimate report.

    President Bush, after spending years raising the hype around Iran's nuclear program, found a way to twist the tension-relieving report into just another warning about the Iranian threat. Never mind the evidence his jousts with Iran over nukes have been relying on have been pulled out from under him; I am sure hawks are not too pleased either with the recent intelligence report.

    If anything it is good news that there is less pressure on all parties to make a move in the Iran nuke stalemate. But even though Iran may have stopped developing nuclear weapons for now, it's good to keep up the pressure, says a Guardian commentator. Iran may have suspended its program, but that doesn't mean it cannot, or will not, start it up again. What Bush predicted as WWIII with Iran seems very unlikely at this point.

    Monday, 3 December 2007

    Karl Rove gives campaign advice... to Barack Obama

    The former Bush White House strategy guru gives guidance to none other than Democrat Barack Obama. Subject: How to beat Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential race.

    Not that you have asked for advice, but here it is anyway: Iowa is your chance to best her. If you do not do it there, odds are you never will anywhere. You are way behind her in most national polls. The only way to change that is to beat her in Iowa so people around America take another look at you. You did a smart thing organising effectively in the early primary states. But you can take advantage of that only if you win Iowa and keep her from building an overwhelming sense of invincibility and inevitability.
    I do not like Karl Rove, but his political views from a strategic standpoint are interesting. Rove's directions to Obama are to-the-point, making the article actually a good read. (I hope the Obama campaign reads this.)

    Meanwhile, Clinton slams Obama in Iowa; Obama starts a website to log attacks by Clinton; and everyone — including the media — continues to miss the point when skirmishing over healthcare.

    Russia's undemocratic election

    So it looks like Putin has rigged — and won in — yet another Russian election. United Russia appears to have won the parliamentary election overwhelmingly, with turnout up to a suspiciously high 98-99% in some regions. There are many parallels being drawn between Putin's current authoritarian rule and the Soviet era. Come to think of it, Russia — like China — has never really been democratic.

    The New York Times:

    A day after his party secured an imposing victory in parliamentary elections, President Vladimir V. Putin today declared that the results were a “sign of trust” that had conferred new legitimacy on the government. But European monitors and opposition parties harshly criticized the balloting, saying that it had been neither free nor fair.

    The final tally showed that Mr. Putin’s party, United Russia, received 64.1 percent, giving it roughly 315 seats in the 450-seat Duma, or lower house of Parliament, which would be enough votes to amend the constitution. Far behind was the Communist Party, with 11.6 percent, or 57 seats. Two other parties allied with Mr. Putin — the Liberal Democrats and Just Russia — are also to receive seats.
    The end of the parliamentary campaign is expected to intensify discussion in Russia about who will be the next president. United Russia is holding a meeting in two weeks at which Mr. Putin might designate a candidate to run in the presidential election in March, and whoever he names will automatically be the front-runner.

    Mr. Putin cannot run again because of a constitutional term limits, though United Russia’s strong performance on Sunday renewed speculation that he might ask the Parliament to amend the constitution.

    If he does not, what he will do after March remains a mystery. He has said he wants to continue wielding influence over the nation, but how he will do that — and what his relationship will be with the next president — is unclear.

    Even as Mr. Putin was hailing the election, European monitors on Monday were taking a different view, contending that there had been “a clear abuse of power and a clear violation of international commitments and standards.”
    Luc van den Brande of Belgium, leader of the mission from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said Mr. Putin had improperly used the Kremlin to help United Russia. “There are a lot of concerns about the evolution of democracy in the country,” Mr. van den Brande said.
    With the nationalistic Liberal Democratic Party clearing the 7 percent threshold to enter Parliament, one of its new leaders, Andrei K. Lugovoi, is expected to receive a seat.

    Mr. Lugovoi is a former K.G.B. officer accused in Britain in the fatal radiation poisoning of Alexander V. Litvinenko. Britain has sought Mr. Lugovoi’s extradition, but Russia has refused. Once he enters Parliament, Mr. Lugovoi would have immunity from prosecution in Russia.
    Overall in Russia, the turnout was about 63 percent.

    After the rise of Putin and his ex-KGB buddies, it is no surprise Lugovoy, the prime suspect of an important murder investigation (Litvinenko, the Russian dissident and ex-spy killed mysteriously last year in London), is going to win a parliamentary seat, thus making him immune to any investigation.

    Election results have been highly contested and the elections, like many of the happenings in modern day Russia, bare resemblance to those of the Soviet era.

    President Putin recently replaced the prime minister with a man people know little about, but is suspected as being just another puppet for the president, who cannot run again this coming election as that would exceed term limits. Even though Putin may make an effort for the presidency during 2012 election, the Russian political elite is already working on a successor to the man who has transformed 'new Russia' into a power worthy of respect — or fear — because of its energy resources.

    Chavez's 'revolution' hits a roadblock

    Voters said no to letting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez rule as president-for-life, in a referendum held over the weekend.

    A humbled President Hugo Chavez was left reeling Monday after Venezuelan voters rejected a raft of constitutional reforms that would have allowed him to seek re-election indefinitely.

    His defeat in a referendum Sunday was a political earthquake in Venezuela, an unprecedented blow to Chavez's hopes of turning his oil-rich OPEC country into a lynchpin of Latin American socialism.

    "Now, Venezuelans, let's put our trust in our institutions," the 53-year-old leftist president said after reluctantly accepting results that showed his changes were rejected 51 percent to 49 -- the narrowest of margins.

    This is good news. Frankly I'm surprised that the vote turned out this way, considering Chavez's recent authoritarian impulses (masked as 'socialism' and helping the common man against enemy America). The "Socialist Revolution" has hit its first major roadblock for the Venezuelan leader, a close admirer of Cuba's Fidel Castro and friend of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — all of whom do everything they can to inflame relations with the United States as much as possible. Anyone who still thinks Chavez is good for Venezuela should stop and think for a second; this statesman is nothing short of a dictatorial Castro wannabe.

    Saturday, 1 December 2007

    World AIDS Day

    Today is World AIDS Day.

    World AIDS Day, observed December 1 each year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. AIDS has killed more than 25 million people, with an estimated 38.6 million people living with HIV, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. Despite recent, improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claimed an estimated 3.1 million (between 2.8 and 3.6 million) lives in 2005, of which more than half a million (570,000) were children.

    Even though AIDS fears have been slightly downgraded recently, the disease is still one of the most pressing global health issues. Over 33 million people worldwide live with HIV/AIDS, the majority (22.5m) in Sub-Saharan Africa. The country with the largest AIDS problem is South Africa, followed by Nigeria and India.

    More and more resources are being pledged in the fight against the AIDS pandemic, but some issues — such as poverty, lack of education, and the Catholic Church and other religious conservatives being opposed to safety measures such as condoms — continue to plague the anti-HIV/AIDS effort. Governments also need to stop denying they have an AIDS problem, like we've seen Russia, China, and many African governments do. We need to teach about, treat, and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS; there must be a coordinated effort between local and national governments, NGOs, and religious and community authorities in this mission.