The return of the roundup. 

I started a weekly roundup of humanitarian issues/stories a while back and am trying to get back to it. For myself and for any others interested in humanitarian and global issues, I’ll attempt to share the more interesting stories I encounter each week here. 

Rizaq says he threw himself on top of the insurgent, and his partner helped cuff him. He did get a commendation for the arrest, but Rizaq and his comrades are under no illusions -– they say there is little compensation for what they do — and plenty of risk.

Jobless And Lacking Benefits

Amanullah Ahmadzai, a 27-year-old Afghan army veteran, is also from Paktika. On his very first mission, his convoy hit a roadside bomb.

Ahmadzai had one eye to his gun sight; the shrapnel hit his other eye. There was no ambulance with the Afghan convoy. The Americans eventually helped get him to a hospital, but it was Kabul’s then-notorious military hospital. In years past, patients there brought their own food or faced starvation. They paid bribes to get medical treatment.

China Said to Detain Returning Tibetan Pilgrims

Many of the pilgrims are elderly and have been detained for more than two months in central Tibet, or what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region. The detainees are being interrogated and undergoing patriotic re-education classes, and have been ordered to denounce the Dalai Lama, who presided over the ceremony, known as the Kalachakra, say people who have researched the detentions. The detainees are being held at hotels, schools and military training centers or bases; some are being forced to pay for their lodging and meals.

The detentions are expected to stoke resentment among Tibetans toward the Chinese government at a time when tensions across the Tibetan plateau are at the highest in years.

The pilgrims were detained at checkpoints while returning overland via Nepal or while flying into Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. Some have been released, and many who were held in central Tibet but are officially registered as residents in other regions have been sent to those areas, according to the researchers, who interviewed released detainees and their friends and relatives.

The Kalachakra ceremony, an important teaching ritual in Tibetan Buddhism, takes place some winters in Bodh Gaya, the site in the Indian state of Bihar where the Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment. The Dalai Lama travels there from his home here in the Himalayan hill town of Dharamsala to give teachings, and Tibetans and other Buddhists from around the world attend.

Though the Chinese government vilifies the Dalai Lama and calls him a “splittist,” some officials have been willing to quietly allow Tibetans to attend the ceremony, given its religious significance. This year, Chinese officials did not grant passports to many monks who wanted to attend, but they did loosen restrictions in other areas — Tibetans from Yunnan Province reportedly were allowed to attend for the first time. Many Tibetans going to the ceremony often travel with Chinese passports to India through Nepal or fly directly to India, and they avoid explicitly telling Chinese officials that they are planning to attend the Kalachakra. The Tibetan government-in-exile estimated that 8,000 Tibetans from Tibetan areas of China attended this year.

It is unclear why Chinese officials allowed large numbers of Tibetan pilgrims to go abroad around the time of the Kalachakra, only to detain them upon their return. The crackdown appears to be part of the growing conflict in Tibetan areas, which in the last year have been the site of the most intense and sustained protests since the 2008 uprising. Most startling are the self-immolations: At least 32 people have set fire to themselves to protest Chinese rule; about two dozen of those have died. Chinese officials have said some of those who attempted self-immolation were mentally unstable or were acting under the Dalai Lama’s direction. The Dalai Lama has denied any involvement.

…the new progressive era will need a fresh and gutsy generation of candidates to seek election victories not through wealthy campaign financiers but through free social media. A new generation of politicians will prove that they can win on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and blog sites, rather than with corporate-financed TV ads. By lowering the cost of political campaigning, the free social media can liberate Washington from the current state of endemic corruption. And the candidates that turn down large campaign checks, political action committees, Super PACs and bundlers will be well positioned to call out their opponents who are on the corporate take…Those who think that the cold weather will end the protests should think again. A new generation of leaders is just getting started. The new progressive age has begun.

JEFFREY D. SACHS, in the New York Times. (via thesmithian)

I’m really intrigued by this. The next several months (and year or two) will only tell if we can see the culture in Washington change. More importantly, it’ll tell us if the culture of the everyday America changes - is Occupy Wall St. a movement that will demand change and a better America or go with the season? The Arab ‘Spring’ has certainly had lasting power, but it’s seemed to take Americans the longest to finally start standing up for governmental change. Reports of protests from Europe and South America (for mostly financial and austerity reasons) then the Arab world (for social rights reasons) flooded our browsers and television screens for months, yet here, where much of the economic disaster began years ago, we’re just now seeing people get angry.


It used to be that a sworn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution was the only promise required to become president. But that no longer seems to be enough for a growing number of Republican interest groups, who are demanding that presidential candidates sign pledges shackling them to the corners of conservative ideology. Many candidates are going along, and each pledge they sign undermines the basic principle of democratic government built on compromise and negotiation. […]

The oldest and most pernicious of these modern oaths was dreamed up by Grover Norquist, the leader of Americans for Tax Reform, who has managed to get 95 percent of all Republicans in Congress to pledge never to raise taxes for any reason. If they end tax deductions, Mr. Norquist’s pledge-takers say they will match the increase in revenue with further tax cuts.

That pledge is the single biggest reason the federal government is now on the edge of default. Its signers will not allow revenues in a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

Its success has now spawned dangerous offspring. There is the Susan B. Anthony pledge, in which candidates promise to appoint antiabortion cabinet officers and cut off federal financing to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. It has been signed by Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum. There is the cut, cap and balance pledge to gut the federal government by cutting and capping spending, and enacting a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. It has been signed by all of the above candidates, plus Mitt Romney and Herman Cain.