Qatar – Development

Development

If development was measured only by money, Qatar would be the most developed, with a GDP/capita of US$106,000. 14% of citizens are millionaires; the government has so little need for money that there is a 0% tax rate. Qatar is a member of OPEC, and bases the economy almost entirely on oil. The Emir says he prioritises his citizen’s wellbeing, including in advanced health care and education and expanding infrastructure for the 2022 world cup.

Qatar has the highest life expectancy in the Middle East (82 years for men and 78 years for women)- no-one lives below the poverty line.

Qatar is a developing site for tourists, due to being so under-explored. It has gained a reputation for a luxurious destination with a feeling of authenticity. The capital has a large range of cultural attractions, and natural wonders.

Issues Holding Back Development

  • No political freedom, with no political parties
  • No war of asserting civil rights
  • Trade unions are not allowed
  • No transparency in governance
  • Sharia Law still implimented
  • Qatar is not a member of the ICJ
  • Significant gender inequality
  • Ranks 86th in the world for literacy
  • The population is only 330,000, so a small gene pool has lead to high occurence of genetic diseases
  • Wealth is leading to the highest growth of obesity and diabetes in the world
  • Qatar has the highest CO2 emissions per capita in the world.
  • They are the highest consumers of water/person/day – 400 liters
  • Petrol is cheaper than water
  • The ITUC rates Qatar as one of the worst places worldwide for workers. Migrants make up 54% of the workforce- 545,000 from India and 341,000 from Nepal. Sub-contractors recruit these workers and there are many reports of slave-like conditions. (In 2014, DLA Piper published 60 recommendations to improve conditions for workers and Qatar has promised to implement them, however, there is little evidence of anything having been done about this).

2022 Football World Cup Controversy

There is a lot of talk of getting the world cup away from Qatar, due to the stepping down of the president of FIFA – Sepp Blatter- and concerns about both the climate and the lack of football culture.

The Qataris say that their being chosen is proof that there’s nothing wrong and hint at a fall out if they were replaced. In total, the emirates host 1.5 million migrants who are working to produce the stadiums- those same workers who are almost in slavery.

The kafala system gets payments from various Southern Asian countries which give them permission to send workers to Qatar. Many of these migrants owe money to recruitment agents; desperate for money they are forced to work long hours in unsafe conditions. Employers withhold wages, confiscate passports or cram workers into horrendous quality accommodation.

The minister of labour and social affairs- Abdullah bun Saleh al-Khulaifi is confident that the system wil be replaced with a fairer system based on 5 year contracts, and giving them more freedom.

Qatar has improved their housing. Qatar is building 7 new cities to house 258,000 migrant workers. The largest- Labour City- would have universal air conditioning and a 24,000 seat cricket stadium. Housing inspectors are increasing, but so is the migrant worker population; which is expected to hit 2.5 million by 2020.

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Russia and Gay Propaganda

The Russian federal law “for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values” was signed into law on the 30th of June 2013 by President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin after a unanimous vote (436 -0) in favour (bar one abstention) from the State Duma (The lower house of the Russian parliament).

“I have sincere contempt for the Duma’s deputies. All, including the so-called opposition. You have now brought fascism to my country,” – Yelena Kostyachenko, Russian journalist

The Russian government claims that the ban on propaganda to stop homosexuality as being something normal is to preserve “traditional family values” among their population.

The anti-propaganda laws charge fines of up to 5,000 Rubles (roughly US$156) for promoting anything with homosexual content directed at minors – “directed at forming a nontraditional sexual set-up). It also applies to anyone who states that homosexual and heterosexual relationships should be equal, or even that the individuals deserve to be treated equally, as well as to anyone who distributes anything that speaks positively about homosexuality. The fines can go up to 100,000 Rubles (£1,975) for anyone who disseminates “propaganda” online or through the official media. Foreigners who enter Russia do not face long term jail time; but it is still up to 15 days and includes deportation, and they may also be fined the 100,000 Rubles. Organisations can be fined 1 million Rubles and have all activity ceased for up to 90 days.

The bill was criticised of being poorly defined- and I genuinely cannot find anything stating how the bill defines propaganda in any official capacity- but despite this obvious and enormous flaw, Putin had promised to sign it in advance of it passing through the Duma.

“We are talking about protecting children from the respective information” – Vladimir V. Putin

Putin denied that the bill was anti-homosexual, and instead claimed that it was about “protecting children”. The Russian government claims that legalising gay marriage in other countries is a matter effecting those countries’ national security- effectively stating that gay spouses all suddenly become terrorists.

Putin also put into law a bill saying that anyone who offends religious observers can be jailed and fined. This would, of course, include homosexuals when extremist members of certain religious groups are concerned- an obvious example being the Westboro Baptist Church, who picket the funeral of anyone they believe to be homosexual and can reach the grave of, and celebrate their deaths. The bill essentially would mean that in a country with a high propensity for extremist attitudes about whether gay people even deserve to live, LGBT people could essentially be fined for being alive if this bill were to be passed there instead.

This bill was intended to punish actions “demonstrating disrespect to society and done with the goal of offending the believers’ religious feelings”. You can be given up to 3 years in jail for insulting a religious believer in  Russia; although being able to insult someone unlimitedly is obviously not a good thing, to be arrested for insulting someone once of a specific group is a very blatant breaking of the human rights declaration that Russia signed when joining the UN.

“The government is using these instincts – homophobia, xenophobia – to justify its policies against an independent civil society. They are making enemies out of us – not just LGBT society, but any group in society that doesn’t agree with their current politics.” – Igor Kochetkov, Russian LGBT Rights Activist

This isn’t just a reflection of a strange government order, but of a strange society. 45% of Russian people genuinely believe that homosexuality is caused by being seduced into it by propaganda and 47% believe that they do not deserve equal rights to straight people. Although they should have a right to their own culture and their own views on social issues, it should not be at the expense of understanding the science of the issue (which is that people are not drawn in by propaganda, but by their own genetics and by experiences during their formative years). It also makes no sense that the law is supposedly about “protecting children” but it is illegal to publish material speaking out for homosexual rights to adults, displaying blatant hypocrisy and an inability to form a decent justification, or a high level of condescension (essentially stating that all Russians are forever children).

The bill has given the Russian Orthodox Church unprecedented power, and this seems almost to be Putin’s tactic to maintain his power within Russia- to lean on the church as heavily as possible and make attacks on the church illegal so that attacks on him can be made illegal.

“People have become more closed, more depressed, less out than they were. The law makes our activity more difficult, because we never know when the red button will be pressed… If I were to walk along the corridors of my school holding hands with my husband, that would be considered a promotion of non-traditional family values. I won’t be fired because I’m out and gay and promoting non-traditional family values at school. Then there would be a court case. All the authorities like to say at international high-level meetings that there is no discrimination in Russia. So it would be on disciplinary stuff: if I forget my lesson plan or I’m five minutes late to class.” – Konstantin Yablotsky, an organiser of the Open Games

Yablotsky has talked about how the coverage of the Olympic Sochi games and the Open Games together actually worsened LGBT rights in Russia. There was a lot of initial international coverage about the act, with many calls to not attend the games. In interviews, Yablotsky would make it clear that the Open Games were not about protest, or following any political ideology, but about promoting a healthy lifestyle and peaceful dialogue with authorities. However, this somehow got misinterpreted as being a protest, and was reported as such internationally. With the international community looking at the games as being a protest against the government full of LGBT propaganda, it was hardly a surprise that the Russian authorities cracked down so hard on them. Many venues for the Open Games (a sports event like the Olympics but intended for LGBT athletes) cancelled reservations at the last minute, and the police ordered many others to be evacuated because of a fictitious terrorist threat. Generally, outside movements are a good help for social movements, as long as they carefully think through the repercussions of what they are doing. Outsiders need to be careful that they do not portray the situation as LGBT individuals deliberately opposing the state in anyway which is not directly for their own safety and the country’s wellbeing, and merely take the actual concerns of the individuals into account.

There is now a clearer idea of how the law is being enforced. Activists at Askhangelsk and Kazan have been arrested for holding signs at rallies, a newspaper in Khabarovsk was fined for publishing an interview with a teacher who was fired for being gay, a manufacturer of a children’s game that portrayed gay couples was fined, and children’s author Lyudmila Ulitskaya is being investigated because her book series promote homosexuality.

It has also facilitated homophobia; a St Petersburg gay march were showered in sickening gas, and many firms refuse to host LGBT events or groups due to fears of legal action against them. The liberal political opposition feel unable (justifiedly) to associate themselves with giving the LGBT community more rights, even to just basic freedom of speech, and journalists can’t cover the results of the ban. Several teachers have been fired for being openly gay, even if they don’t mention this to their students. Just using the word “gay” is often seen as propaganda. Drag artists have been attacked, even when they are straight and cis-gendered, with significant numbers of audience members ending up hospitalised. Radical Orthodox group, God’s Will, seeks to out professionals who are gay, and force companies to fire them (which is indisputably stupid as if they have to seek them out they are clearly not distributing propaganda about it, and are not posing any threats at all, even if saying you’re homosexual is seen as a threat, to traditional family values).

Groups like Occupy Paedophilia equate homosexuality to pedophilia.

“We [LGBT people] are treated as subhuman, with no civil or human rights. We are social non-entities, and we are even considered diseased and dangerous to society,” – Yulianna Prosvirnina, a drag king, who had her performance interrupted and 4 of her audience members hospitalised.

A Russian priest denounced the football world cup team’s cleats as being a “homosexual abomination”. The Jewish Autonomous Oblast, in Russia’s far east, felt the need to ask the Kremlin to confirm that their flag, featuring a rainbow, is not homosexual propaganda.

LGBT awareness events can be shut down if police find there to be anyone under the age of eighteen attending, and local authorities refuse permits for most types of gatherings.  LGBT rights are further hindered in Russia, as many activists have emigrated to get away from the harsh law.

“We used to do a lot of film screenings as a form of education, but now we can’t show a film unless it gets a certificate from the state confirming that it can be publicly shown. A lot of smaller places that could show films will not allow it in their facilities anymore. Police will attend some our events to check passports.” – Andrei Obolensky, chairman of the Rainbow Association, and LGBT rights group.

Teenagers’ mental healths have been effected as even discussing the possibility that they might not be heterosexual has effectively been outlawed, and they can’t find any sorts of support groups if they decide that they’re not. Teenagers unsure of their sexual identity have become outcasts within their own society. This is especially evident after a series of hate-groups used social media to lure gay teenagers into meeting them and then physically assaulted them- photos of the attacks are then shared on social media, and often receive many ‘likes’ with little police intervention. The ban is being applied without any considerations for child protection, and that knowing the age of every user of each computer might be a little bit bad for safety reasons in a country known to be a source of child trafficking.  Teenage suicide rates are 3x the global average in Russia.

There is a double stigma for gay people who have contracted HIV. There have been parents who have said they wished they had got an adoption after their children said they were HIV positive in the past, who have been able to receive counselling, but that would not be available now.

The ban is really just a symptom of a much bigger problem in Russia- that anyone who has opinions against the president is slowly having their freedom of speech become more and more restricted. The government has been cracking down on anything that Putin thinks may effect constitutional order, defence or security, and to stop anyone who may pose a threat to his presidency speaking out, despite it being a “democratic” country.

NGO work in Haiti

Oxfam’s Let Agogo Project in Haiti funds an organisation that gives local people cows, with a focus on women. Support from vets allows them to care for the cows, sell on dairy projects and boosts the local economy.

Calves are given to other families from the original families, so that more can join the scheme. People have used their incomes to buy food, shelter and education. The government also buys some of the milk, which is then treated before being given free to local school children, which then improves their diets. The project has the clear benefit that local people run it for the benefit of other locals.

There are concerns to using cows, however, as just within the USA, POCs of African ancestry have a 75% chance of being lactose intolerant, and the USA is more affluent, and therefore more likely to give people exposure to milk. It is a proven thing that people can maintain a lactose tolerance despite their genetic predisposition if they have enough exposure throughout development, which poor people in Haiti are unlikely to. This being said, the economic benefit is likely to remain as the receivers of the cows can still sell to other ethnic groups with lower incidence of lactose intolerance. It is also worth noting that lactose intolerance normally develops with age somewhat, so that children who will be intolerant can occasionally still benefit from receiving free milk while they are young.

Gender Issues in Malawi

Chief Kachindamoto, the Inkosi in Dezda district, is annulling child marriages within her area, and sending girls back to school within Malawi.

Young girls, 12+ are getting married and having children traditionally in Malawi. Early pregnancies can be fatal, as the woman’s body has not grown fully. Her reproductive organs and pelvis have not either, which can lead to major internal damage, with her uterus bursting at the extreme.

In 2013, Kachindamoto said there would be no more child marriages in her area. She has the authority to enforce rules if there are protests about them, and she can fire any hired figures who help child marriages occur.

The average woman in Malawi earns US$11 a month. There are still dowries to pay for a woman’s marriage. Girls cannot afford basic items, such as soap, and many people laugh at young mothers. Girls will often go ahead with child marriage so they can access these basic items, despite the stigma, believing that their quality of life will improve.

The recommended class size in Malawi is 60 people per class, with some classes having up to 160 pupils. This is, of course, an issue for everyone, but it is often girls who will lose out on education first if there is little opportunity for good learning in less developed countries.

Gender violence in marriage is very common, alongside domestic abuse. Many girls complain that their new husbands will frequently go out with other women, and not provide for them or the other women.

Kachindamoto’s movement includes building  new lodgings  for girls which they can live in until their education is complete, without their ex-husbands’ presence.

Child marriage is illegal in Malawi before the age of 18. The girls in Malawi say there is a difference between having a law and enforcing that law, between passing and enforcing it. This is largely because the constitution and the law do not agree with each other; the constitution does not ban marriages at any age, and only says to “discourage” marriages before age 15.

Maya Lands and Oil Dispute

In Belize, people who buy land only buy the surface (and the right to dig down to build surface-based projects, such as house foundations and planting fence posts).

This is because, in Belize, due to the predominant rock type being limestone, there are many branching cave networks carved out by underground rivers throughout the country. The blue hole, a popular diving site, was formed by one of these cave networks collapsing, and the sea water pouring in to fill the space left behind. On the main land, many of these caves were used by the Maya people before the European colonisation of Meso-America. The Maya believed that there were steps up to heaven and down to hell, and that the cave networks were linked into these steps. Thus, caves were very spiritually important to the Maya people. Many burial sites were made within the cave networks. They were also used for sacred rituals, including human sacrifices, on occasion.

When North American buyers came in to buy land, the government was concerned that, should they find a Maya cave, they would use it as a tourist attraction, disrespecting the original culture, possibly damaging it, and the money produced from this would be leaked out and not even help the local economy to thrive. To stop this happening, the Belizean government decided that land rights were only applicable to the surface of the land, and that should a greater depth be needed for something, the government had to be consulted.

The Maya in the South of the country, in Toledo district, claim right to the lands in their district, which was, largely, respected. However, the government decided to allow oil companies from outside to look for oil resources in the south of the country.

This has raised issues with Maya people, not just because of the lack of farmland. Maya generally practice a subsistence lifestyle, so that they only produce so much food as they need to survive, and they farm in the forest using slash-and-burn methods. Their practice has worked for hundreds, if not thousands, of years in the forests without any noticeable negative impacts to the overall environment. However, this is threatened by oil companies. Oil wells can often leave exposed, or more exposed, oil at the surface of the land. Oil, for obvious reasons, does not mix well with slash-and-burn farming. Oil wells mean large sections of Maya land cannot be used, threatening their livelihoods.

Other concerns are that the Maya will gain little financial benefit, as very few of them will actually be employed by the oil companies. The few who are employed are likely to only be so for the short term, and to have low wages while they are. Some say that no Belizean should be happy with the current format for exploiting oil, with the company taking 95% of the total profit, and nationals only gaining 5%. It could also impact organic cocoa farming, which is a substantial portion of the Belizean economy.

This is what lead to a campaign by the Toledo Alcade’s Association and the Maya Leader’s Alliance to declare the Mayan people’s stance on oil exploitation in 2012. One MLA spokesperson said that they could not begin to discuss oil exploration without a proper acknowledgement of the Maya land rights, as, in law, their “free, prior and informed consent” is needed, as they are the owners of the land that US oil companies intend to extract from.

Make America Hate Again- 1/209

Hello, welcome to Make America Hate Again, the documentary of the hate Trump has made again. The number on the top represents the week of Trump’s term and the number beneath shows how many weeks there are in total of his term. If you want to find a specific week, either change the URL in the top bar^ or search for “part [week number]” into the search bar

For part 0, the next part, and the latest part.

If in doubt, any quotes come from here.

I would also like to clarify: I don’t think all conservatives are idiots. I disagree with many conservative views, but most conservatives’ points can at least be understood. Trump cannot.

General summary:

(source)

  • Appoint judges “who will uphold the Constitution” and “defend the Second Amendment” (the right to bear arms)
  • Construct a wall on the southern U.S. border and limit immigration “to give unemployed Americans an opportunity to fill good-paying jobs”
  • Re-assess trade agreements with other nations and “crack down” on companies that send jobs overseas
  • Repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly called the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare)
  • Remove federal restrictions on energy production
  • Push for an amendment to the United States Constitution imposing term limits on Congress[5][6]
  • Eliminate gun-free zones[7]
  • Formulate a rule on regulations “that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated”[8]
  • Instruct the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to “develop a comprehensive plan to protect America’s vital infrastructure from cyberattacks, and all other form of attacks.”[8]
  • Label China a “currency manipulator”

January 20th

  • “…against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.” There’s only two ways to remove an ideology. The first, is the Nazi-esque route of killing everyone who has it, and killing everyone who looks like they might have it, and to kill all their relatives so the genes that allow that to be passed on are not passed on. This is not recommended. The second is to not try to eradicate it. When you meet someone from one of those fragile groups, you go out of your way to show them they’re a valuable person. People who believe they’re valuable don’t become suicide bombers. You show them they can function perfectly well in your society. People who fit within a society don’t abandon it to deliberately try bringing it down. One of these methods is far cheaper, and easier, literally anyone can contribute to it, and most importantly of all- it doesn’t need genocide.
  • “I heard when people of sound mind come out of those meetings [briefings about their role as president], they’re either crying, or thrown away by it. The amazing power to destroy this planet that’s in a finger of the president of the United States, the second he takes office is too awesome for a normal human being to imagine.” says Chris Matthews, a member of the Carter administration, as a speechwriter. He said this after describing how the relayed message for the nuclear launch is sent. It sounded a lot like he was about to add “and this is how I know he isn’t of sound mind.” He then referencedan interview: “I asked” What, what should happen to a woman that chooses to have an abortion? Either you’re-” “Well,” he said, “There has to be some punishment for her.” And then he said- he also said- … we… he “wouldn’t rule out nuclear weapons in Europe.” Europe’s small! If you blow up somebody, everybody get’s blown up! And he said “Why did we make ’em if we’re not going to use ’em?”” I think the nuclear comment speaks for itself (in an intense level of moronic), but I can’t comprehend how the idea that a woman should be punished even in situations where she’s aborting to save her life, or when the baby would never survive, or when she was raped, manages to keep entering politics.
  • Chris Matthews also says that Donald Trump sent a christmas card back to him, autographed. “This is a beautiful family, Donald Trump.” Which completely puts him out of touch with the entire population; greetings cards being sent back is a huge insult in the UK, and I assume it is in the US.
  • The secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, wants there to be fire arms in schools to help fight off bears. It’s oddly ironic how stupid that justification is. I’m sure the first stop most bears take when approaching towns (which they do very often) is to directly approach schools, enter them, and start attacking pupils, because obviously, the 30% of the diet that is meat in grizzly bears is best satisfied by yelling, screaming kids who would definitely not scare a bear off just by sheer number of them, and the noise volume. Besides, most animals judge size by the front face, and bear shoulders honestly reach roughly up to many people’s stomachs and no further. She also militantly calls for school privitisation; her entire job will probably be cutting education money and campaigning for private schools. Poor children won’t even be able to afford schooling in Trump’s USA. As I said before, I would not be willing to keep my children in public schooling if I were a parent in the USA at the moment, and this further confirms that.
  • Riots started on Friday in response to the inaugoration.

January 21st

  • “I looked out, the field was, looked like million, million and a half people. They showed a field where there was practically nobody standing there. And they said, “Donald Trump did not draw well.”” Apparently we’re dealing with someone who doesn’t realise that a field which looks about 5% full isn’t a good turn out.
  • Half a million women worldwide stage protest marches against Trump, completely overshadowing his first day as president, in the largest protest in the USA since the Vietnam war. Good work.

January 22nd

January 23rd

  • The White House outright refused to release Trump’s tax returns.
  • The USA has officially backed out of the TPP.
  • Trump again claimed that there were millions of illegal votes against him, making this the official government position.
  • The official replacement for Obamacare has been proposed. States that like Obamacare can keep it, but all others have to adopt whatever else Trump comes up with. I think very few states will opt out of Obamacare.
  • Donald Trump claims that his inauguration day should be an annual day of celebration- the National Day of Patriotic Declaration. This should be concerning to everyone. He didn’t say that inauguration day should be- just his inauguration day. Which rather suggests it’s the last inauguration he thinks they’ll be. It also mirrors comments from the DPRK very closely. It is now official US legislation. It seems to be a tradition for US presidents to rename inauguration day something else for their term, but Patriotic Declaration comes far from Bush’s Prayer and Thanksgiving or Obama’s Renewal and Reconciliation.
  • Sean Spicer said “We can disagree on facts”.

January 24th

  • Four journalists reporting about the protests were arrested. If charged, and all other people arrested already for this in Trump’s term are charged too, then 6 people are facing 10 years in jail and a US$25,000 fine. None of their reports actually featured any valid legal charges, while real crimes were occurring in the rioting on Friday and being entirely ignored. I think this would make them classifiable as political prisoners.

January 25th

  • “”They would all be for the other side,” he said, possibly forgetting that one of the few arrests for voting fraud in 2016 was of an Iowa woman who tried to vote for him twice.” I think we all know about Trump’s constant allegations that millions of people voted “illegally” for Clinton. I’ve also stated before that I suspect he means PoCs, women or Muslims. Here is to highlight his complete disgregard for actual facts. If he cared about facts, he would have checked this out and found this case which he completely opposes with his “informed” conclusion. “”Look forward to seeing final results of VoteStand, Gregg Phillips and crew say at least 3,000,000 votes were illegal. We must do better!”” This sounds like he’s trying to make higher claims of illegal votes just to boost his reputation. He then calls for harsher voting restrictions and checks, which would not have much of an effect nationally, and then for the removal of early voting procedures, which would hinder voting groups who mostly favour democrat (the poor, PoCs, disabled individuals), who cannot physically reach a polling station on voting day, either because their bodies are not able to or because they cannot take time off work. I would say that if only 3 people were found to have commited fraud of 314 million, the rules are already harsh enough. 1 in 100 million is not exactly much.

January 26th

  • President Enrique Peña Nieto and Donald Trump “jointly” cancelled their meeting due to “disagreements on who should build the Mexico-USA border wall”. Trump said that Mexico is not treating the USA “fairly”.

January 27th

  • Banning all immigration and visitors from Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Yemen, all Muslim majority, while allowing any and all Christian migrants, which is against the US constitution’s statement (in the First Ammendment) on not being a Christian country (or rather, guaranteeing a complete right to religious freedom), but instead being intentionally secular. “If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the “bad” would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad “dudes” out there!” It takes a lot longer than a week to prepare your documents and walk or smuggle yourself to an airport in a war torn country. One family took 2 years preparing their documents and travel, and arrived in Philadelphia just after receiving their visas, making touch down within moments of the announcement. They were arrested and deported back to Iraq, having spent less than a day in the country they had come to to escape war. This is one example of many I have found very, very easily.
  • These people are not allowed to enter the USA for 90 days, with refugee admissions suspended for 120 days with “case by case” exceptions, with Syrian refugees suspended indefinitely. Only 50,000 refugees are allowed to enter the USA in 2017. He says this will “Keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the US“, even though the 7 banned states are not the states the 19 9/11 bombers were from, which were Saudi Arabia (15), the UAE (2), Lebanon (1) and Egypt (1). Note that none of these were the states that got travel bans (and it would be pretty awful if that were why they did, as 1 person is definitely not representative of any population, and I highly doubt 15 would be, even in somewhere far less populous than Saudi Arabia.

Xiamen Acid Rain

258 of China’s cities experience acid rains due to sulphur emissions.

Xiamen is located in the South-East part of Fujian province, which is often regarded as one of the best places to live in China. The city is experiencing continuous acid rain.

China has made some large attempts to reduce pollution levels, but these have clearly not had much of an effect on Fujian province yet.

“Official statistics show every drop of rain in Xiamen in the first half of 2010 was acidic, recording pH levels of less than 5.6 (neutral is 7),” – Zhuan Mazhan

Causes

The PRC is one of the most polluting countries in the world, along with the USofA, and air currents across the country push polluted air to the sea, and then south wards. Fujian province is at the Southern most point of the main curve of the PRC coastline, across the East China Sea from Taiwan, so it is at the point where the most polluted air converges.

Impacts

  • Acid rain is leaving buildings with yellow staining due to corrosion, particularly the colonnial age buildings which give Xiamen its unique appearance, which in turn helps to attract tourists to the island.
  • The island where Xiamen is located is being turned yellow as plants are being damaged.

Outside Xiamen, the Leshan Buddha statue of Sichuan province, has been hugely effected, and has been very badly damaged, losing its reddish colouring, due to factories built close by to it. The statue is the largest Buddha statue in the world, carved into the sacred Mount Emei, and has been there since at least 907 AD; it is a major tourist destination, particularly for Buddhist pilgrims, but is being damaged from all the acid rain and may not remain so. (This was initially confusing as almost every source mentions Leshan alongside Xiamen. I have tried to make it clear they are not the same place.)

Response

China is pursuing its promises made in 2009 to cut the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP in 2020 by 40-45% compared to 2005 levels. This has yet to be particularly effective; acid rain rates are still increasing down wind of industrial centers.

Refugees and Italian Earthquakes

The earthquake struck on 24th August, 2016 at 3:36. It scored magnitude 6.2, with an epicentre close to Accumoli, with a depth of only 4km. 298 people were killed. There have been at least 2500 aftershocks, some of which, along with the initial quake, have been felt throughout most of Italy.

The Apennines are a very seismically active area, with many small faultlines. The faults involved recently in quakes have been SW-dipping faults.

Tourism to the rural area swelled the number of people around the area who could be affected by the earthquake. As such, 3 Brits and 11 Romanian people were killed by the earthquake.

At least 365 people had to be hospitalised, though many others had more minor injuries. 238 people were pulled out of rubble. A town near the epicentre, Amatrice, according to its mayor “is not here anymore”. Many cultural heritage sites have been lost- to the extent that structural tests were done on the Coliseum, on the other side of the country, 100km away. Dozens of people were killed in Rome, despite the distance from the epicentre.

Approximately 2,100 people went to emergency camps. 4,400 were involved in search and rescue with 70 teams with rescue dogs.

Italy has well developed emergency services which mobilised 6,600 rescue people overall. Rescue workers asked locals to turn off wifi passwords to help teams (and those needing assistance!) to communicate more easily.

A man trying to loot an empty home was arrested at one point.

A state funeral was held with coffins for 38 victims from Amatrice, including 2 children. The funeral was meant to be held in Reiti, 35 miles away, but local people protested, saying it had to be held locally, putting additional immediate strain onto builders and organisers, who were already struggling with organising basic needs. Another was held in the Marche region, nearby.

The Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, has pledged 50 million euros in funds for rebuilding.

Refugees

In Pescara del Tronto, five asylum seekers helped out. Amadou Jallow from Gambia was one of them, and he said they had “to give back to Italian people for the good things that they have done for us”.

35 refugees and asylum seekers in Ascoli Peceno were shocked by the earthquake but started clearing rubble away quickly. A group of 70 refugees pooled their 2 euros a day allowance and made a donation of nearly 200 euros to earthquake victims- the footage they saw reminded them of the places they had fled from.

Italy generally has a very xenophobic attitude towards those of Muslim heritage- to the extent that in some schools refugee children are made to use different bathrooms to the others, due to “hygiene concerns” despite the children being perfectly healthy. Some of the intolerance is understandable:

  •  Since 2014, 400,000 refugees have arrived in Italy
  • Not all of them have enough housing
  • Not all can access schooling
  • Some politicians said the funding spent on refugees should have been spent on helping refugee victims instead.
  • Some victims think it better to be living in a migrant centre than the earthquake victim camps.
  • The emotional strain of the earthquake is going to put people on edge about any issues they encounter.

Any help the refugees gave was entirely from them understanding how stressful the situation was and genuinely wanting to help people in need; no one was trusting them enough to think they’d do anything to help.

Most don’t care about the prejudices- they’re grateful to live somewhere safe at last, and want to give back to their new communities. Some other examples of refugee community work:

  • Syrian teenagers in Seattle volunteering to help the homeless with basic necessities
  • A Syrian refugee setting up meal stations to give homeless people food in Berlin
  • Another Syrian refugee mobilising the refugee community to help in flooding in the British town they are living in.

Earthquake Proofing Controversy

Rieti was meant to have rebuilt many of its buildings after an earthquake in 1974 to improve earthquake resistance; however, an entire family was killed that sheltered within a church during the movement. A primary school in Amatrice was levelled- after 700,000 euros were spent in 2013 on “renovating” it; tests of the school’s permits shows that anti-seismic measures were faked, possibly by the mafia.

The Amatrice bell tower had been recently restored before the quake, but fell, and crushed a family of four.

 

Nepal Earthquake

Fact File

  • The main earthquake scored a magnitude of 7.8, and hit on April 25th, 2015, between Kathmandu and Pokhara
  • There was a major aftershock on 12th May 2015, of magnitude 7.3
  • It was the worst earthquake to hit in 80 years

Causes

Natural

  • The Himalayas are caused when the northern part of then tectonic plate containing India and Australia pushes up towards the Eurasian plate. Both plates are continental, so relatively light- the crusts both push upwards when they collide, causing huge mountains to form as the Himalayas. Because these rocks started as sedimentary rocks from the sea floor, before the continents collided, seashells can be found in rock faces along the Himalayas
  • Kathmandu is located on soft rock, which, when shaken undergoes “liquefaction”- where solid rock effectively becomes a liquid under stress. This undermined building foundations, causing huge property damage
  • Weak rocks and steep slopes combined to make the aid operations very difficult in the area.

Human

  • Bureaucracy stopped a lot of aid progress, hindering recovery efforts and fostering mistrust between locals and aid organisations
  • Political haggling has effectively stopped aid efforts
  • Corruption among aid workers, particularly Indian aid workers, led to Nepalese blockades in progress, which, according to the Nepalese government, are more damaging than the earthquake itself, economically. Blockades have stopped the flow of construction materials, greatly increasing the costs of rebuilding.
  • Nepal is known as a corrupted country, slowing down aid work and reducing the ability of redevelopment
  • As the earthquake started during the working day, many farm workers were out in their fields, which helped protect them from injuries from falling masonry

Impacts

Short Term

  • Almost 9,000 people were killed, between Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Tibet. Within Tibet, foreign nationals of various countries including Australia, China, India and the USA were killed.
  • People panicked upon seeing the damage and were too scared to return home- this had psychological effects on many individuals, but likely probably helped some people’s safety. As Nepal is hit by frequent tremors, many people are still terrified by small ground movements on a regular basis
  • Dubar Square, a noted UNESCO site was utterly flattened by the shaking
  • 600,000 homes were destroyed
  • 21,000 people were injured
  • The earthquake damaged water supplies from springs down to people causing huge clean water shortages.
  • In the Langtang valley, entire villages were wiped out by avalanches.
  • Many Tibeto-Burman villages were destroyed, as the ethnic group like to settle high up on rocky slopes, making them especially susceptible to land slides and avalanches.
  • Avalanches caused by tremors on mount Everest killed 18 people, making it the day with the highest fatalities on Everest. At least 60 people were injured, and some had to be taken out by rescue helicopters.
  • 4 million people are still living in temporary shelters

Middle Term

  • Many people have taken out large loans to help fund house rebuilding, plunging them into debt.
  • Violent crime rates, particularly against women, greatly increased.
  • Women struggled to get aid, leading to even greater gender disparity within the region
  • People no longer had access to decent sanitation, or to toilets, so there were fears of outbreaks of diseases such as cholera

Responses

Short Term

  • Aid agencies quickly started distributing out survival items like food, bed sheets and crude shelter-making materials (like iron sheets) to help protect people.
  • Airports were reopened as soon as they were safe. That said, some had to be reclosed very quickly afterwards due to aftershocks. During these, people were moved out of the building and onto the runway temporarily, to minimise the risks of injury due to damaged building work.

Middle Term

  • Very few of the roughly 800,000 flattened buildings have been rebuilt.
  • Pledges of US$3×10^9 were made, but 3.5 million Nepalese people have still yet to receive more than very basic aid.
  • The government is starting to give out about 200,000 rupees to the worst effected homes- but only 660 families have received anything so far out of 100,000 eligible, and that is no where near enough to build up new houses or recover losses to the family. Just buying sand for a single room can cost 60,000 rupees.
  • To receive this money, 150,000 of the rupees must be spent on home-building, using a 7 step plan to build earthquake-proof homes. In theory, this would greatly reduce the impac of future earthquakes. In practice, each of the 7 steps is very expensive to locals, who have no means to pay for all of it. If they flout the building rules, they get no compensation.
  • Only about 30% of foreign aid goes to beneficiaries; meanwhile, over 40% is just in admin, breeding discontent between locals who view them as corrupt and the aid companies, slowing down the rebuilding. In Nepal, 43% of the aid money goes to the government. Corruption watchdogs have said that local officials may siphon off even more money

Evaluation of Responses

International aid have been trying to help the area, and on a small scale, they have worked relatively well. Where they can work without funding, such as by building small evacuation camp latrines out of bamboo and rock, they are very effective. However, corruption, and growing irritation at the corrupted system has lead to complications and delays to the extent where very little has really been achieved by aid workers, despite their best efforts.

Many locals would probably be fine helping themselves to build housing, as many people are using loaned money to build their homes faster than they could on the government money, if the supply were supported, instead of being crippled by protest groups.

It’s understandable why they are protesting- at a time when their country needs all the help it can sensibly receive, the government has been redirecting funding away- but their protests merely exacerbate the issues they are complaining about, at least from an outside perspective. It’s unlikely they will change anything with corruption soon.

References

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-36089960

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/apr/25/earthquake-survivors-stranded-nepal-aid-bureaucracy

https://www.theguardian.com/careers/2016/jul/18/nepal-earthquake-emergency-sanitation-red-cross

Dalai Lama- the 15th?

Although this is really not relevant at all to the A Level Geography course, I did a little random research on the Dalai Lama a few days ago (I’m really not sure why, I just had a sense of curiosity about him), and found some comments I thought were interesting, at least.

The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is well known as a proponent of a free Tibet, and as one of the few internationally respected heads of state, at least by the people. In the 1980s he proposed taking the middle ground and granting greater autonomy to Tibet, if the government of the PRC did not want a truly free Tibet. After this, he said something along the lines that the next Dalai Lama might not be born to the PRC, as clearly such an “authoritarian” state did not lead a spiritual leader. It was then speculated that a future Dalai Lama might be born to another geographically close country, like Nepal, Bhutan or even somewhere like Bangladesh.

(Since these comments, one spokesperson said something along the lines that if the middle way could not be fulfilled, Tibet must campaign for full independence once more.)

At another point, the Dalai Lama then stated that he might not reincarnate at all, as the world needs spiritual leaders less now.

And after that, he said that even if he did, he might be a woman in a future life.

Regardless of whether anyone reading this believes in reincarnation or not, I think these are still very interesting comments.

The Dalai Lama is normally found by a series of signs, such as which direction smoke is flowing at the time, or from visions. I think it would be interesting to see if these comments are taken as signs to a 15th Dalai Lama’s identity, and if, if they are, this would mean someone from outside Tibet could become the spiritual leader of the region, and even if a female Dalai Lama would take a traditionally male role. And of course, the implications if no Dalai Lama were found, would be culturally enormous.

There’s even a question of, if reincarnation is possible and has occurred 13 times for the Dalai Lama- can the Dalai Lama choose who he reincarnates as in any way, and, can he choose whether he reincarnates at all?

There hasn’t been a female Dalai Lama, and very rarely have there been female leaders in the Himalayan region, so that is especially interesting in a way.

Of course, I’d like it to still be a while before anyone finds out, as the 14th Dalai Lama, at least from what I’ve seen, is an incredibly good leader, and a brilliant person.