While recessionary winds continue to buffet the world economy, many countries are still prospering due to innovative policies that have embraced economic growth and expanded economic opportunities and grown the middle class in places as disparate as East Asia and South America. Yet, the United States, the world's largest economy, has slipped downward yet again in economic freedom according to a significant new survey.
Five years after the onset of the purportedly pro-democracy revolts against authoritarian rulers in much of the Middle East, the heady warm breezes of the Arab Spring have been replaced with swirling ill winds sweeping the region from Tunisia to Iraq. Governments were toppled, chaos ensued, and the genie of pent up political frustrations soon turned violent. Syria, Libya and Yemen are wracked by violence.
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates slammed both the Obama administration and the presidential candidates calling for long-term realism in America's fight against the Islamic State terrorism. "I think that the president has all along underestimated ISIS, has underestimated the degree of fear that they have been able to provoke among a lot of Americans," Gates stated, using an alternative acronym for IS.
Not one week into the new year, the North Koreans jolted the world as well as the Richter scale with a nuclear weapons test. While the underground blast shook the remote Punggye-ri region near the Russian border, the political reverberations of the bomb have been felt globally,
It's time to consult the crystal snow globe for a look at both the likely and unexpected events which will shape the New Year. Serious strife both in the Middle East, and Africa to a lesser extent, have expanded leading to a culture of conflict with the ensuing reverberations of refugees which have swamped into neighboring countries and deeper into Europe.
Calling 2015 a year which has brought "both breakthrough and horror," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented a global report card of sorts on a "pivotal year" in which the world organization marked its 70th anniversary as well as helped achieve what he outlined as a sustainable development agenda as well as the Paris climate change agreement.
Mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited southern Africa both to build upon booming business relations and improve cozy political ties between mainland China and key regional states. Beijing is already the African continent's top trade partner with US$222 billion in commerce; moreover China is weaving a vast web of infrastructural, road and rail projects that will help speed a flow of natural resources to China's industries. China's trade with Africa exceeds declining American commerce with Africa by a factor of three to one.
More than 30 years ago, back in the summer of 1985, the world came together to help famine stricken Ethiopia. The Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia, raised both public awareness and impressive final assistance for the starving masses in the East African country. The anthem "We Are the World" resounded and people and governments helped with humanitarian aid.
In a stern and sweeping rebuke to North Korea's human rights abuses, a U.N. committee has slammed the repressive communist regime in an annual report on "The Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea." In a vote of 112 in favor, and 19 against, with 50 abstentions, the Third Committee (political) passed a resolution that once again keeps international pressure on Pyongyang in the midst of an impending visit to the reclusive country by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
U.S. President Barack Obama has cancelled the Keystone XL, ending a seven-year saga in which the pipeline from Alberta would have provided 800,000 barrels of oil to the U.S. on a daily basis. By scuttling the controversial deal, which has been part of an on again/off again political drama in both Washington and Ottawa, Obama cited environmental concerns and basically threw in the fact that America is awash with more affordable oil, so why do we need Keystone anyway?