Category: Explainer

Nobel-Peace-Prize-winners-012Who are the people who won the Nobel Peace Prize?

Malala Yousafzai, a 17-year-old Muslim girl from Pakistan, and Kailash Satyarthi, a 60-year-old Hindu man from India, jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize for their “struggle against the suppression of children and young people.”

What exactly is the Nobel Peace Prize?

The Nobel Peace Prize is an international prize awarded annually since 1901 by the Norwegian Nobel Committee according to guidelines laid down in Alfred Nobel’s will (“. . . to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”). The prize includes a medal, a personal diploma, and a large sum of prize money (currently, about $1.1 million).

What did Malala Yousafzai do to deserve the award?
(more…)

hong-kong-44What is the protest in Hong Kong?

Pro-democracy activists in the city are protesting the Chinese government’s decision ruling out open nominations for the election of Hong Kong’s leader in 2017. According to the BBC, China’s leaders had promised direct elections for chief executive by 2017, but last month the top legislative committee ruled that voters will only have a choice from a list of two or three candidates selected by a nominating committee. This committee would be formed “in accordance with” Hong Kong’s largely pro-Beijing election committee and any candidate would have to secure the support of more than 50 percent of the nominating committee before being able to run in the election.

Who is leading the protest?

Various groups, though Occupy Central with Love and Peace — an organization that promotes universal suffrage — seems to be the most prominent. Occupy Central, led by Hong Kong law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, organized the unofficial referendum on political reform held in June.

Is Occupy Central connected to the Occupy Wall Street protests?

Yes. Both are part of the Occupy movement, an international protest movement that has promoted protests on six continents.

Why is the protest sometimes referred to as the “Umbrella Revolution”?
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
By

ebola-treatmentWhat is the Ebola crisis?

Over the past six months, the Ebola virus has been spreading through several countries in Africa. The result is a potential epidemiological, humanitarian, and global security threat. “The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has the potential to alter history as much as any plague has ever done,” says Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. President Obama said he has “directed my team to make this a national security priority.” And Dr. Kent Brantly, an American who was infected by Ebola, recently told the U.S. Senate:

The use of our military is a legitimate and defensible request because if we do not do something to stop this outbreak now, it quickly could become a matter of U.S. national security-whether that means a regional war that gives terrorist groups like Boko Haram a foothold in West Africa or the spread of the disease into America. Fighting those kinds of threats would require more from the Department of Defense than what I am asking for today.

What is the Obama administration’s goal and strategy for the Ebola crisis?

In his recent speech, President Obama laid out four goals: (1) to control the outbreak, (2) to address the ripple effects of local economies and communities to prevent a truly massive humanitarian disaster, (3) to coordinate a broader global response, and (4) to urgently build up a public health system in these countries for the future — not just in West Africa but in countries that don’t have a lot of resources generally.

To accomplish these goals, President Obama plans to:
(more…)

scotland-independenceWhat’s going on in Scotland?

On September 18, voters in Scotland will vote in a referendum whether they want the nation to become independent from the rest of the United Kingdom.

What is the reason for the push for Scottish independence?

Mainly for political and economic reasons. Scotland is more economically liberal than the rest of the UK and in favor of a broader welfare state. And because of offshore oil resources, many believe an independent Scotland would not only be wealthier than the rest of the UK, but would put the them in the top 20 of countries globally.

What’s the argument against independence?

As the Better Together campaign explains, “We think that the case for staying a part of the UK is a compelling one – and it is based around a simple notion: We have the best of both worlds in Scotland.”

The idea is that Scotland currently benefits from the safety and security of being part of one of the biggest economies in the world. They also have their own Scottish Parliament making decisions about many domestic policy issues, so leaving the UK wouldn’t be much of a benefit for the small country.

Wait, what’s the United Kingdom? Is that the same as Great Britain?
(more…)

children-600pxWhat is the “border crisis?”

The “border crisis” is the frequently used term for the spike in unaccompanied minors who were caught illegally crossing the border U.S. border over the past few months. According to the Congressional Research Service, the number of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) arriving in the United States has reached alarming numbers that has strained the system put in place over the past decade to handle such cases.

In 2013 the federal government housed about 25,000 minors who were going through deportation proceedings. This year, that number is expected to rise to over 60,000. There has also been an increase in the number of UAC who are girls and the number of UAC who are under the age of 13.

What countries are the minors coming from?

Four countries account for almost all of the UAC cases (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico) and much of the recent increase has come from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

In fiscal year 2009, Mexican UAC accounted for 82 percent of the 19,668 UAC apprehensions, while the other three Central American countries accounted for 17 percent. By the first eight months of FY2014, the proportions had almost reversed, with Mexican UAC comprising only 25 percent of the 47,017 UAC apprehensions, and UAC from the three Central American countries comprising 73 percent.

Why aren’t UACs turned away at the border?
(more…)

ISIS-syriaWhat just happened in Iraq?

Conflicts in Syria and Iraq have converged into one widening regional insurgency and Iraq risks a full-scale civil war after an al-Qaeda-linked militant group called ISIS quickly seized a large section of the country’s northern region. The group has already taken Mosul, the country’s second largest city, and is within striking distance of Baghdad.

Insurgents stripped the main army base in the northern city of Mosul of weapons, released hundreds of prisoners from the city’s jails, and may have seized up to $480 million in banknotes from the city’s banks.

Government forces have stalled the militants’ advance near Samarra, a city just 68 miles north of Baghdad.

How did ISIS take control of Mosul?

The short answer: the Iraqi army ran away. Iraqi officials told the Guardian that two divisions of Iraqi soldiers – roughly 30,000 men – simply turned and ran in the face of the assault by an insurgent force of just 800 fighters. Senior government officials in Baghdad were equally shocked, accusing the army of betrayal and claiming the sacking of the city was a strategic disaster that would imperil Iraq’s borders.

Who is ISIS?
(more…)

coal_power_plantWhat is this latest news about an EPA rule change?

On Monday, June, 2, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed rule change on “emission guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to address greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units.”

Specifically, the EPA is proposing state-specific rate-based goals for carbon-dioxide emissions from energy producers (mostly from 600 coal-fired power plants) and setting guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to achieve new state-specific goals.

Is this is an important change?

According to the New York Times, if implemented the change “could close hundreds of the plants and also lead, over the course of decades, to systemic changes in the American electricity industry, including transformations in how power is generated and used.”

How would the rule change work?

States will be required to develop their own plans based on a range of policy options to meet the new stringent goals. They can replace their current systems with wind or solar or join state and regional “cap and trade” programs, that allow states to cap carbon emissions and buy and sell permits to trade those limits with other areas. If they don’t come up with a plan themselves, the EPA will impose one on them.
(more…)

VA-Medical-Center-jpgWhat is the VA and what does it do?

VA is the acronym for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a cabinet-level organization whose primary function is to support Veterans in their time after service by providing benefits and support. The benefits provided include such items as pension, education, home loans, life insurance, vocational rehabilitation, burial benefits, and healthcare. It is the federal government’s second largest department, after the Department of Defense. The VA’s health-care wing, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), is the largest health-care system in the country, with more than 53,000 independent licensed health-care practitioners and 8.3 million veterans served each year.

What is the current scandal involving the VA?

The VA requires its hospitals to provide care to patients in a timely manner, typically within 14 to 30 days. But last month, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said that as many as forty VA hospital patients in Phoenix, Arizona may have died while awaiting medical care. Miller also claimed that the Phoenix VA Health Care System was keeping two sets of records to conceal prolonged waits that patients must endure for ¬doctor appointments and treatment.

According to internal VA emails obtained by CNN, the secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by top-level VA managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor. The process involved shredding evidence to hide the long list of veterans waiting for appointments and care, and the head of the office even instructed staff to not actually make doctor’s appointments for veterans within the computer system. This allowed the VA executives in Phoenix to be able to “verify” that patients were being treated in a timely manner

Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said similar scandals have surfaced in at least 10 states. The American Legion has documented those cases in the following infographic (click to enlarge).
(more…)

vietnam-protestsWhat is going on in Vietnam?

For decades, China and Vietnam have clashed over control of parts of South China Sea, which is rich in oil and fish. Earlier this month, China moved an oil drilling rig into waters claimed by Vietnam. The Vietnamese government sent vessels trying to stop Beijing’s deployment. Chinese ships responded by firing water cannons, which sparked protests in Vietnam. Thousands of protestors torched Chinese-owned businesses and factories. On May 18, Vietnamese security forces moved to stop the protests while the Chinese government sent four ships to evacuate Chinese citizens from Vietnam.

Where exactly is Vietnam?

Vietnam is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. The country is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea to the east. Although roughly the size of New Mexico, Vietnam has a population of over 89 million, about the same as California, New York, and Texas combined. It is the world’s 13th-most-populous country, and the eighth-most-populous Asian country.

What type of government and economy is in place in Vietnam?
(more…)

boko-haram-nigeria-350x187What is going on with the mass kidnappings of children in Nigeria?

During the night of April 16, dozens of armed men from the terrorist group Boko Haram captured over 300 Christian girls aged 12 to 15 who were sleeping in dormitories at Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in northeast Nigeria. About 50 students managed to escape, but 276 were still being held according to Nigerian state police. The group has since captured 8 more girls.

The kidnappers took the girls into the 23,000 square miles Sambisa Forest, which is nearly eight times the size of the U.S.’ Yellowstone National Park, a known shelter for the extremists.

Who is Boko Haram?

Boko Haram (which translates to “Western education is sinful”) is the Hausa language nickname for the Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad. Founded in 2002, the terrorist group is comprised of radical Islamists who oppose both Westerners and “apostate” Muslims. Based in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger, the organisation seeks to establish a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia law, putting a stop to what it deems “Westernization.” Its followers are said to be influenced by the Koranic phrase which says: “Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors.”

The group is known for attacking, kidnapping, and killing Christians and Muslims, bombing churches, attacking schools, and destroying police stations. Violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency has resulted in an estimated 10,000 deaths between 2002 and 2013.

Why did they take the children?
(more…)