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Free speech versus the right to bear firearms – The NRA has opted to blame free speech and expression rather than firearms as cause for the recent apparent surge in shooting sprees as that in Newtown at Sandy Hook School. NRA VP and spokesperson Wayne LaPierre fired a barrage of charges, and certainly at least some have resonance both in the US and globally: “In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes — every minute of every day of every month of every year. A child growing up in America witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18. And throughout it all, too many in our national media … their corporate owners … and their stockholders … act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away.”

The NRA is more than suggesting though that controlling media, art and almost any form of expression is a better option than gun control to confront America’s epidemic of violence. I have no difficulty in giving at least some weight to the argument that violence projected via various outlets, from traditional media to video games may contribute to a lack of sensitivity and/or dislocation from reality at least for some. However, as in the case of guns most such speech/expression is part of our collective freedom even when offensive or perhaps crude to some or most tastes via America’s most critical First Amendment. Are we willing to go down the road of giving the Government greater control over freedom of speech and expression in order to save unrestrained access to all types of guns? Is this the inevitable end of the road destination of the NRA’s argument?

Not only pointless violence but purposefully offensive characterizations of ethnic, racial and/or religious groups can incite violence. From Nazi era propaganda directed at Jews and the unfit to “hate-radio” to demeaning characterizations of the Prophet Mohamed, it is difficult to draw the line between incitement and legitimate debate and freedom of expression. Is not the most legitimate response to offensive hate-speech our own freedom of speech – law enforcement only becoming engaged when the risk to life is imminent? Further, if we examine some societies where freedom of speech/expression does not readily thrive we can see that nonetheless violence does persist, (as with the Taliban and their guns or China’s recent spate of attacks upon schoolchildren by apparently deranged adults). Rather, from Central America to Afghanistan, the common denominator does appear to be guns and easy access to such by gangs or terror organizations.

Most Americans do not recognize that the Second Amendment was not designed to insure access to firearms for sporting or hunting purposes. Rather, in view of the successful rebellion of American colonialists against British rule, the Second Amendment was to codify the right and threat of citizens standing up to a potentially future authoritarian US Government. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Realistically though US citizens have long ago lost the opportunity to confront their Government with weapons – the US Government has both weapons and intelligence within the country that would make revolution futile as well as criminalized. The purpose of the Second Amendment has been both functionally and in right made irrelevant. When George Mason and the Founding Fathers who insisted upon the Bill of Rights, (the first 10 Amendments, before they would agree to the US Constitution as a new framework for governance), they were cognizant of the potential tyranny of Government authority and ignorance. The right to know as well as to speak and express views regardless of how unfavorable engrained in the First Amendment is our most realistic protection, and even more relevant today in view of the evolution of new media and communication as a whole. Undoubtedly we all will find some speech offensive even hateful or even inciting violence, but it all can be countered by the same rights incorporated in the First Amendment. Words can injure but guns simply kill. Our most effective weapon in defending our freedoms and fending off an overzealous Government or authority is not a gun but the First Amendment.

Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey

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PHOTO: Courtesy of hatch.senate.gov

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Both the new leaders in Beijing and now Tokyo have been adept at employing heated rhetoric over disputed islands in the East China Sea to establish patriotic credentials, but it is also likely that they will not be able to manage and peacefully ramp down the raised emotions and nationalist agenda. Xi Jinping the newly selected China Communist Party Chief and President and Japan’s newly elected Shinzo Abe appear until now to be primarily addressing the Island dispute more as tactical rather than strategic consideration. It serves their ability to short term raise political support and/or votes. However, the real strategic benefit to both countries would be to continue/enhance trading relationships that have made East Asia the global economic engine and to share in the exploitation of apparently significant natural resources in the waters surrounding the territorial waters off the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, (as they are known in Japan/China respectively).
 
Beijing has only ramped up its nationalist profile since Xi took over, both in similar South China Sea disputes with neighbors Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines as well as the East China Sea. (Read our recent article: “Beijing Draws New Expansionist Borders-Signals Accent of Hardliners” https://diplomaticallyincorrect.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/beijing-draws-new-expansionist-borders-signals-accent-of-hardliners-by-ambassador-mo/ ). In all instances, compromise might serve the pragmatic interests of all nations but particularly China. The disputed islands/waters hold no or very few inhabitants and no cultural/historical links. Nonetheless, the heated rhetoric and other methods are being manufactured to raise the nationalist claims.
 
Beijing has sought to avoid any reference of the disputes to multilateral institutions or courts such as the United Nations or the International Court of Justice. Beijing perhaps understands its claims to be weak and prefers to employ its significant economic, political and military muscle to as some argue “bully” competing claimants into partial or perhaps total abdication. Beijing also seeks to deal with each of the other claiming states individually rather than agree to a resolution that brings all together – something that would be rational in view that there are multiple claimants to some of the islands and surrounding waters. Again, Beijing appears to be opting for a divide and conquer policy apparently seeking to overwhelm each of its rivals one by one.
 
However, Beijing may already be badly miscalculating. Some of the rival claimants are seeking the support of the regional multilateral organization ASEAN. Further, some are inviting Washington into the dispute as “White Knight.” The United States also perceives a real strategic interest not the least being that new claims could obstruct shipping lanes. Vietnam and the Philippines are courting US backing and now increasingly Japan regardless of recent animosities. China may find itself creeping into regional isolation.
 
Does all of this though have to lead to military confrontation, or are we just seeing rivals puff-up feathers before cooler heads and practical interests prevail? Unfortunately, the puffing-up can lead to its own course from which Beijing and now Tokyo may find it difficult to reverse and be seen as losing face with domestic audiences. Most critically, with Beijing so eager to avoid a multi-lateral forum for resolution, it has placed its bets on a favorable resolution by flexing its newly developed muscle. What happens though when the other guy starts to push back – military conflict appears more readily available than a diplomatic or judicial resolution?

Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey

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PHOTO: Courtesy of policymic.com

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December 10 is International Human Rights Day and also the 24th Anniversary of the establishment of the International Human Rights Commission. Defending human rights is about the individuals and organizations (NGOs) that are the eyes, ears, and frequently the conscience and at times architects of the global framework now gradually evolving. In 24 years, the first war crimes tribunals were established by the United Nations ICTY (ex-Yugoslavia) and then ICTR (Rwanda). The Rome Statute brought to fruition the commitment of experts, scholars and human rights defenders – the International Criminal Court (ICC) came into being probably much earlier than most of us would have expected.

More recently, the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have played an ever more critical role. In the new revolutions, particularly in the Arab World, international humanitarian law more than sovereignty are the relevant standard, both in deposing the despots and then in legally dealing with them and their alleged crimes. Even the crimes of the Cambodia Killing Fields are now being brought to light and at least some notion of justice more than 30 years after. The “duty to protect” shows an evolving proactive rather than reactive force – one that will ideally confront genocide and other abuses before they become smears on our humanity and shared history.

Undoubtedly there are setbacks and many. We don’t need to highlight them here although it is a good practice whenever self-congratulation is part of the agenda. However, the slate no longer can be simply erased just because of time or size of eraser. History remembers because of justice. Justice is served better because legality has the framework. Legality functions in large part because it has committed people and institutions as the International Human Rights Commission to remind.

Rather than being less important because of the development of such institutions as the ICC or UN Human Rights Council, the International Human Rights Commission is ever more relevant. Impunity is still possible but crimes against fellow man in obscurity are increasingly of the past – it is not about the social media, but the people behind such. Further, the ICC or UN or many such institutions do not have a clearly defined constituency beyond member state governments. The Commission acts in part as a set of concerned and involved global citizens. The Commission no only records history and looks to attribute responsibility but also demands accountability of institutions increasingly speaking/working on behalf of global citizens. It thus also shapes the debate and future development of such institutions where there is a significant distance, perhaps vacuum between them and the global citizen.

There are still many hurdles to overcome, even in defining human rights, international humanitarian law and its methodology. Is the right to food a human right? Do people have a fundamental right to a fair wage or education or health care? Are women and men, girls and boys to be afforded the same rights? Will gender, race, religion, income/wealth, age,perceived disability, sexual orientation or simply nationality become a new basis for a caste system flourishing in reality but rhetorically denied? Are justice, punishment and the death penalty correlated? Is the basis for legality’s methodology common law, civil law, cannon law and/or Sharia? Is it subject to selective application or founded in more objective investigative resources? The International Human Rights Commission is the model for the work of global citizens united in the sense of impartiality without prejudice based on old divisions and with commitment to fair play and justice for humanity. Peace and opportunity is product sought.

That we ask these questions is real progress as compared to a past when it all seemed so far out of reach, including other like committed global citizens. Again Happy Birthday International Human Rights Commission and may the next Human Rights Day, 2013, be commemorated with an even greater sense of progress.

Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey

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PHOTO: Courtesy of humanrightsfirst.org

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Driven by ideologues opposed to anything defined as multilateral or called international, most Republican Senators blocked ratification of the UN Treaty on the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, “Convention.” Notably this was despite the strong support of wounded war veterans such as Republican Senator John McCain and former Republican Senate leader and former Presidential candidate, Bob Dole. Overwhelmingly US based organizations representing persons with disabilities, (religious and secular), and similar Veterans groups urged adoption. However, the not so insignificant minority opposing the Convention piled on with arbitrary objections invoking everything from patriotism, to church, to Mr. Magoo.
 
The opponents to the Convention ultimately settled on one point of focus: Well, the Chinese or other despotic regimes are not likely to implement the Treaty faithfully, so why should the US adopt it?  In this one argument, the opponents of the Convention managed to bring down Washington to the level of Beijing rather than seek to raise much of the rest of the world to American ideals of equality, empathy and fair play.  By failing to adopt, the US will abandon its leadership role launched earlier via adoption in 1990 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which in most ways served as model/guide for the Convention, (ironically, under another Republican President). The US has undoubtedly been a leader in addressing and promoting the opportunities and rights of persons with disabilities. Also Read: “An American Eagle Scout from Disabled Iraqi Boy” https://diplomaticallyincorrect.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/international-day-of-persons-with-disabilities-or-where-eagles-soar-by-susan-sacirbey/
 
US leadership has been essential on many issues. Such though cannot be founded upon mere preaching or opting out of what we as Americans urge others to do. If America wants to lead on human rights, then it must lead by example. If we wish to promote the “rule of law” as the standard by which countries are judged on governance, then America must trust and submit to global standards. The failure of the US to become a member of the International Criminal Court has become a blemish on America’s standing, perceived evidence of hypocrisy, and handicapped the US for almost two decades to take more effective role. The current failure to adopt the Convention will disable US leadership and potential undermine advocacy by both US NGOs and Government on issues of the disabled. Late today we already heard chuckles from some about the failure of the US Senate to adopt. Those giggling were the representatives of despots while those working on behalf of democracies and open societies were in dismay at the exhibit being witnessed before the US Senate.

 
By,  Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey

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PHOTO: Courtesy of thetakeaway.org

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While some are eager to regulate the Internet, how about regulating the would-be regulators?  The UN finds itself caught in the middle of a whirlpool of a controversy that is most likely to drag down its reputation as contradictory agendas and philosophies regarding the future of the Internet are now being offered. This month a conference has been scheduled in Dubai under the auspices of the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) – a longstanding institution that has had more success in addressing shared global interests with respect to previous manifestations of the telecommunication revolution, (although one can fairly ask whether the global citizen or governments and their ordained monopolies have benefited more from such intra-border “regulation” and pricing controls).

Case Against Global Regulation:
There are several concerns/complaints regarding the latest version of regulating the Internet, the World Conference on International Communications (WCIT): Some more authoritative governments have apparently sought to employ the WCIT to finally gain control over the content, presumably unfavorable political content now more freely exchanged among citizens. Others see the potential for another parasitic evolution – consumers paying favored monopolies for the privilege of what has been a largely borderless and free Internet. Perhaps the consideration that has raised the greatest ire is the asserted lack of transparency. The case against the WCIT is more thoroughly elaborated upon in the article linked: “UN Agency’s Leaked Playbook – Panic, Chaos Over Anti-Internet Treaty” by Larry Downes http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrydownes/2012/11/26/un-agencys-leaked-playbook-panic-chaos-over-internet-treaty/3/

Cyber Security & Projected Threats?
No doubt there are legitimate concerns regarding the abuse of the Internet for criminal and/or terror purposes. However, security has been abused as pretext ever more to subdue dissent and squelch freedom of expression. Internet exploitation for crime/terror has become an ever more frequent concern offered within western democracies – unlawful intrusions and hacking into personal, business and government Internet accounts. “Cyber-security” has become both a catch phrase and rapidly growing business. Warnings that entire economies and electronic grid systems can be shot down via cyber space are part of the political discourse and marketing of new services. Regardless though of how valid and sincere perception of such threats, progressive and authoritarian governments may be seduced also by the prospect of greater regulation over the Internet for the sake of control. While cyber security threats are debated, China and other authoritarian governments have evidenced how much a real threat “control” can be to personal freedoms and individual security.

Narrowing the “Digital Divide”:
The United Nations Secretary General has framed the debate in Dubai in terms of access: “A digital divide has no place in the information age and 21st-century knowledge economy. Our overall objective must be to ensure universal access to information and communication technology – including for the two-thirds of the world’s population currently not online. “Information and communications technologies are transforming our world, opening doors, educating and empowering people, saving lives. Mr. Ban also highlighted the effects of social media and technology in driving the Arab Spring protests and similar democratization efforts around the world. We must continue to work together and find consensus on how to effectively keep cyberspace open, accessible, affordable and secure for all.” I have no reason to doubt the UN Secretary General’s word. However, there is no doubt that some governments/regimes would usurp an agenda slated for the empowerment of global citizens to gain greater control for their much narrower and at times anti-democratic objectives.

“Bill of Rights” before Shared Security/Efficacy? – A Lesson from History
Whether the time has come for greater international regulation over the Internet under UN auspices can be debated further; however, it is from perspective of the global citizen paramount to start with regulation of the regulators. The greatest threat may come from those who would assure us that they act in our immediate interest, great or small. It is no coincidence that after the American Colonies liberated themselves from the British, some of the framers of American Independence perceived the next great potential threat to their newly won freedoms coming from the very new federal and state governments they had helped empower. The major architect of American liberties, George Mason, refused to sign the new US Constitution, designed to address the need for greater efficacy and defense, unless and until a “Bill of Rights” was incorporated.

Before we speak of greater cyber space security, efficacy and regulation we must first define, debate and adopt an “Internet Bill of Rights.”  

By,  Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey

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PHOTO: Courtesy of geekosystem.com

putinOptics of Putin visit with Erdogan provides one picture but history paints a different perspective. From trade and tourism to energy and investment, the Russia-Turkey relationship would appear to be blossoming. The visit of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to Turkey is also timed to accentuate the positive being part of a Russia-Turkey Cooperative Council gathering and signing of several key agreements that intend to further the already $35 billion of annual trade, enhance cross-border investments and develop Turkey’s first nuclear power generation with Russian technology, financing and operation.

Empires Competing Over Same Territory & Zones of Influence
The ambitions of both the Russian and Turkish leaders are to reassert their historical influence, from the Balkans to the Middle East and beyond. Turkey is already projected as new model for success of “Islamic-democracy.” Economically, Turkey has gone from basket case to economic bread-basket, from hyper-inflation to impressive growth. Russia is riding the wave of a commodities boom, but still faces many challenges in redefining its economy and political methodology. As Russia, Turkey sees itself beyond the borders of the European Union infrastructure, more by religious/cultural bias of many of Europe’s leaders. Both Moscow and Ankara are now looking beyond recent divide that pitted each on opposite sides of the Euro-Atlantic family, with Turkey as pivotal NATO partner directed toward containing Soviet expansionism.

Washington “Pivot” Establishing Even Greater Vacuum?
With Washington presumably “pivoting” toward the Far East and the rise of China, there is an ever greater vacuum in the near Euro-Asia as countries in the region face internal challenges to governance while preparing to reap substantial benefits from only recently tapped natural resources. Turkey and Russia are players in almost all of these transformations: see Syria but also Iraq, Iran, Caucuses, Central Asia, former Yugoslavia Republics, the Black Sea states; and the list continues.

Historically, Russian imperial expansionism was most frequently at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. It was the Ottomans who were perceived in the West as well as in Istanbul as the girdle around Russia’s appetite. On the other hand, Turkish cultural influence is frequently the only rival to that of more recent links via the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. Without Turkey forming the solid NATO border on the south of Europe, Soviet ambitions may have fared very differently than the defeat in Afghanistan and dissolution particularly in Central Asia and the Caucuses. As Putin returns to the project of reasserting old Soviet and Russian Imperial ambitions, Turkey is more counter to such. The current Syria crisis and deployment of NATO Patriot missile shield along the border indicates that the next-door conflict has only brought Turkey closer to the alliance.

Rivalry Does Not Have to Translate to Animosity:
Both Putin and Erdogan have evidenced smiles, hearty handshakes and almost a dozen new signed cooperation agreements during this visit to Istanbul. However, the differences are also ever more evident and extend beyond Syria – see Balkans and Caucuses. The perceived racist driven abandonment of Turkey as potential EU family member and Ankara’s lack of confidence in Washington’s leadership on the Middle East conflict (Palestine/Israel) more broadly are encouraging a dalliance. However, long-standing geopolitical ambitions would appear to be more in contradiction rather than complementary especially when viewed within the context of the two alpha-leaders modeled by historical perspectives and efforts to reassert the role of their respective states. Turkey is not likely anytime to abandon NATO and certainly not vice-versa. Turkey belongs by economic impact to the definition of a BRICS state, (perhaps reaching top 10 or so largest GDP standard). However, Ankara has also continued to side/support the western democracies in most United Nations votes, unlike the BRICS which frequently appear to be motivated by agenda to counter Washington diplomatically. Thus, the meeting of President Putin and PM Erdogan can deliver mutually beneficial options but the strategic perspective is more likely to be defined by geopolitical and historical designs. Even as today’s Russia and Turkey will continue to extend a historic rivalry it is noteworthy such does not translate necessarily into conflict or animosity. Both countries can benefit from the cooperation apparently on the menu. History also teaches that rivals may frequently as well share in trade and other forms of mutually beneficial exchanges – conflict is perhaps intense, costly and noted by history but impact of cooperation is a more subtle and lasting influence.

By Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey

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PHOTO: Courtesy of todayszaman.com

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The globe has over 7 billion people. Over One Billion have some form of disability. 3 December is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and this year’s theme is “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.”

I would like to share a personal story that takes one to a world of empowerment from death and disability. This weekend, Ambassador Mo Sacirbey and I shared in the celebration of an individual and his mother whose story five years ago caught our attention and that of the Global Medical Relief Fund when we saw Mohammed’s tragic story on CNN. Despite losing his leg and the psychological trauma of witnessing the death of his six-year old cousin in the same explosion, Mohammed said that his goal was to become an architect so that he could rebuild schools in Iraq. Each day he “watered” his cousin’s grave.

On September 15, 2007, 12-year-old Mohammed Al Jumaili and his mother Jinan, touched down on American soil and began their journey of hope and empowerment.
Mohammed’s story doesn’t end with his prosthetic leg and the treatment he received from The Shriners Childrens Hospital in Philadelphia. His road to empowerment, through education, learning a new language, new developmental skills, and giving back to society had only begun.

On Saturday, 2 December, Mohammed was honored with Scoutings highest honor: The Eagle Court of Honor. This is a feat that goes beyond mere excellence and learning. His credentials include more than 12 clubs in school including the Key Club, Student Council, Reading Olympics, chess team, robotics, and sports; football, wrestling, tennis, volleyball and indoor soccer. He was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award and won a blue ribbon in the Reading Olympics, and is an active reporter with a column in The Abingtonian newspaper. And Hamed is yet to turn 18!

The ceremony Saturday was held to a full-house at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill (Philadelphia), Pennsylvania. As Mohammed, a Muslim, received his award and spoke graciously and eloquently in giving thanks to his mother and sponsors, we all felt humbled. Hamed has been embraced by all that is good about America — a society of openness, freedom to practice his religion, opportunity for a second chance.

Mohammed is a striking example of the worth of every individual. “Disability” is a misnomer for him and the one billion other people in the world who have been categorized as “disabled.’ These special people have other special talents and are a part of the fabric of humanity that contributes to the greater good and provides “the rest”  with their knowledge and insight.

Mohammed stands tall and strong and exemplifies this year’s theme: “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.”  Eagle Scout — you soar!

By, Susan Sacirbey

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ImageNew China passports stake not only a claim but also one that will be very difficult to step away from or even compromise with regards to disputed South China Sea Islands. They also appear to confirm that the recent transition of power in Beijing was perhaps a step back away from reformers in favor of reactionary forces deploying nationalism as cover.
The passports picture not only Taiwan as part of Mainland China but also thousands of square miles of South China Sea and largely uninhabited islands/atolls subject to contending claims. Many of these islands incorporated by visual design within China’s borders are only a few miles off the coast of Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam, (and hundreds/thousands from the coast of China). Rather than seek to defuse the disputes that damage China’s relations with its closest neighbors (including ASEAN), this action would only appear to make peaceful resolution more difficult. It also will make joint exploitation of vast natural resources, particularly presumed oil and natural gas. Compromise would have facilitated sharing of resources with China probably still being the biggest beneficiary. The new Beijing challenge though goes beyond its immediate neighbors but will also alarm states as Australia and Indonesia as well as Washington. Read: “Obama’s Foreign Policy Resurgence” http://beforeitsnews.com/international/2012/11/obamas-foreign-policy-resurgence-2447858.html .

Last month’s generational transfer was not particularly transparent in either methodology or the policy consequences. As much as some of us may complain about elections, voter manipulation and the shortcomings of democracy, it has the advantage of flushing out policy and character. No such mechanism exists to inform China’s or global citizens. Suppression of debate is favored over any more meaningful discussion – thus decisions can and are made without an abundance of examination even if with the appearance of deliberate pondering. The reduction of the Politburo Standing Committee, (from 9 to 7 members), also appears as an effort to marginalize reformers as well as reduce debate under the leadership of the ascending Xi Jinping. While Mr. Xi appears more comfortable in the public light than most of his predecessors, he also projects the style of a charismatic leader. Mao was perhaps unique in this style among recent China leaders, but personality cult and nationalism in the end are favored tools across borders and periods. However, the consequences of such style and substance are unprecedented in terms of a state rising economically, politically and militarily as today’s China.

By Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey

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PHOTO: Courtesy of tvcontinental.tv

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First American THANKSGIVING was in 1621. Pilgrims and Native Americans came together to share an abundance of crop and peaceful prosperity. But Thanksgiving had its roots long before in many pre-historic cultures from Africa, Middle East, to Asia. Typically, it was a time to give thanks in prayer to the gods, or higher being. In Africa, it was after a successful harvest at the end of the rainy season.

In America, we have traditions: Turkey with all the trimmings for the non-vegetarian, numerous vegetables, sweet delectables in the form of pumpkin pie, apple pie — College Football Games, Macy’s Day Parade — all celebrated around a meal with family and friends and probably over-indulgence.

The CORNUCOPIA, meaning “Horn of Plenty”, is pictured on many greeting cards, but it is rooted in classical antiquity. It symbolizes abundance and nourishment. Ironically, the horn of plenty is not symbolic of today’s Horn of Africa and the current economic state of many parts of the world, including here in America.

The United Nations reports food shortages that killed tens of thousands of people in Somalia and brought more than 3.2 million others to the brink of starvation. A severe drought exacerbated the effects of conflict, food shortages, and internally displaced persons fleeing the area. United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reports failed harvests and food insecurity.

ONE BILLION PEOPLE GO TO BED HUNGRY EACH NIGHT around the World. However, hunger has no borders. Look at the soup kitchens right here in the United States, the land of plenty.  Today is a day to give thanks and share a meal with family and friends and remember to give to those less fortunate.

We wish you and your families a “HAPPY THANKSGIVING” from a HORN OF PLENTY — Peace, Security, Food of the Soul and Stomach.

Susan and Ambassador Mo Sacirbey

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And, it does propel some important considerations of access to water as well as sanitation, health and productivity to the forefront. “Lack of sanitation implies the loss of millions of school and work days as well as enormous health costs:” Catarina de Albuquerque, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, on World Toilet Day, (observed on 19 November each year). Developed countries are only able to improve life expectancy and reduce child mortality as governments began making substantial investments in sanitation.

$1 on Sanitation = $9 in Savings & Productivity:

“The sanitation sector is in desperate need of more financial resources, in both developing and developed countries, but investing in sanitation is good business and a smart deal,” noted Ms. de Albuquerque stressing that for every dollar spent on sanitation facilities, there is an average return of $9 in averted costs and productivity gains. Developed countries were only able to improve life expectancy and reduce child mortality when governments began making substantial investments in sanitation. Clean Water though does have its own UN Goodwill Ambassador(s) –Advocate(s):  Orlando Bloom & SHAKIRA.

“Especially in a period of economic crisis, it is fundamental to invest in crucial sectors that have a multiplier effect, spend the available resources more efficiently and ensure better targeting so as to prioritize the most excluded and marginalized” – In her report to the General Assembly entitled ”Financing for the Realization of the Rights to Water and Sanitation,” Ms. de Albuquerque underscored the need to increase and restructure financing in the water and sanitation to meet human rights requirements. The problem may be especially severe in areas recently affected by natural disaster and/or conflict.

More Money on Bottled Water than on Sanitation?

Universal access to sanitation by 2015 would require over $14.5 billion annually. “This seems a huge sum,” Ms. de Albuquerque pointed out. “Yet, put in perspective, it is less than what people in rich countries spend on bottled water each year.”

Based upon 2010 global annual assessment of sanitation and drinking by UN agencies, 95 per cent of countries reported that current funding was not enough to provide access to half of those without toilets. According to Ms. De Albuquerque: “Additional resources are needed for the realization of the right to sanitation, but a lot more could be achieved with the funds already allocated. Money is being spent in the wrong places. We need better targeting of resources aligned with human rights requirements.”

Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey

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Photo Credit: Hoosier Insanity Blog Spot