Timothy Spangler from Creators Syndicate https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Wed, 03 Jun 2020 22:07:38 -0700 https://www.creators.com/ http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss Timothy Spangler from Creators Syndicate https://cdn.creators.com/features/timothy-spangler-thumb.jpg https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler 5ab2d56d52aeb5fa908e3565823c21f2 'Orange Is the New Black' in the New China for 08/07/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/08/14/orange-is-the-new-black-in-the-new-china Thu, 07 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>The face of the "New China" is Guo Meimei, an attractive woman in her early 20s whose rise and fall embodies many uncomfortable aspects of modern Chinese life. Until recently, she was generating a strong following on social media for her tweets highlighting her extravagant and licentious lifestyle. This week, instead of a smiling face flashing designer fashion accessories and bragging about her latest excursion, Chinese television viewers were treated to footage of Guo in tears, wearing a distinctly unfashionable orange prison uniform and apologizing to her fellow citizens for her moral failings.</p> <p>Although the Cultural Revolution, which tore China apart during the later years of Mao Zedong's reign, is for most purposes left undiscussed in the misty recess of the collective Chinese memory, Guo's televised "self-confession" seemed intentionally orchestrated to remind viewers of this turbulent period.</p> <p>Guo admitted to acting as a high-priced call girl after having been linked to an illegal gambling ring. In addition to prostitution, she was allegedly involved in efforts to launch an unlicensed casino, and she amassed massive personal debts while playing poker. Her bragging tweets had generated a sizable following on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, but Guo quickly became a symbol of excess to many.<p>Updated: Thu Aug 07, 2014</p> be4ccfeca922625777d532e8ce1f8f0a Indian History Books Telling Hindu Nationalist Fairy Tales for 07/31/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/07/14/indian-history-books-telling-hindu-nationalist-fairy-tales Thu, 31 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>According to the latest history books being ordered by the government of the Indian state of Gujarat, ancient India was home to both automobiles and stem cell research. The decision has sparked criticism by opponents of Hindu nationalism who fear the books will facilitate recruitment by far-right organizations and inflame tensions with Muslims.</p> <p>The books were written by the controversial author Dinanath Batra, who derived his conclusions from a close study of ancient texts such as the Mahabharata. Batra gained notoriety earlier this year when he successfully campaigned against a book by a U.S. author that supposedly disparaged Hinduism. As a result, Penguin Random House, a large international publishing house, withdrew the book and destroyed the copies. He has even argued that the blowing out of candles on a birthday cake is a destructive Western cultural import that should be avoided by Hindus.</p> <p>The recent resurgence of Hindu nationalism in recent months as a potent political force has caught many observers, both in and out of India, by surprise. The consequence of this shift could reshape the country dramatically in coming years, with significant implications across the region and around the world.<p>Updated: Thu Jul 31, 2014</p> 63cb22fc09f9c8eae54a038d4a9d8928 MH17 and the Ukraine Blame Game for 07/24/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/07/14/mh17-and-the-ukraine-blame-game Thu, 24 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>In the days after the tragic loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, global indignation has ignited against the Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, who are believed to have launched the fatal SA-11 missile against the passenger aircraft. Separately, Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, have become targets of rhetorical attacks and diplomatic backlash based on their alleged role in sponsoring and supplying these separatists.</p> <p>Despite the attempt by Kremlin critics to construct a narrative that includes a prominent role for Putin in the shooting down of MH17, which resulted in the loss of 298 lives, U.S. intelligence experts have not yet been able to establish a direct evidentiary link between the Russian government and the catastrophe. Despite the Obama administration's repeated claims that the Kremlin supported and trained the separatist forces, crucial questions remain unanswered. First, who specifically shot the SA-11 missile in question? Second, were Russian officials present when that missile was launched?</p> <p>Importantly, no credible arguments have been made that the downing of MH17 was intentional. Instead, many experts concede that the attack was most likely a mistake by combatants within Ukraine. This, however, has not tempered the efforts of international critics to punish Russia for its supposed involvement in the tragedy, with talk of financial sanctions and blacklists for senior Kremlin officials.<p>Updated: Thu Jul 24, 2014</p> 817b7f9219a2f558b863ace3da4ba465 Saudi Sound System Making Waves for 07/17/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/07/14/saudi-sound-system-making-waves Thu, 17 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>The Saudi government this week announced the upgrading of the sound system used by Mecca's grand mosque, Al-Masjid Al-Haram, to provide improved service to Muslims visiting the holy city during the annual hajj. With the addition of 4,000 new speakers, pilgrims will be able to hear the services up to 6 miles away. Approximately 4 million Muslims will participate in the hajj this October.</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, this audio upgrade, together with other attempts at modernizing the holy city, have proved to be controversial in some quarters. The $2 billion renovation plans are designed to allow up to 2 million people to worship at Al-Masjid Al-Haram. The Saudi royal family takes great pride in its role as custodian of the two holiest cities in Islam &#8212; Mecca and Medina. However, this has not made them immune to criticism that the extensive redevelopment of historic locations has been done in a brash and tasteless manner. In recent years, luxury hotels and shopping malls were built on important sites.</p> <p>Striking the right balance between tradition and progress is always hard, and the tension between the two is by no means solely a dilemma for the West. Middle Eastern and Asian cultures also wrestle with difficult choices between looking backward and looking forward.<p>Updated: Thu Jul 17, 2014</p> fd308231e5082c672d12a33456e306d5 Afghan Election Uncertainties Threaten Obama's Legacy for 07/10/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/07/14/afghan-election-uncertainties-threaten-obamas-legacy Thu, 10 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>The recent elections in Afghanistan have provided neither the certainty nor the foundation for future stability that the White House would have preferred. Initial tallies put Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, an ex-World Bank official, approximately 1 million votes ahead of his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah. Allegations of fraud on an "industrial scale" were promptly made by the Abdullah camp, as well as suggestions that the former foreign minister should establish his own government in parallel with Ghani's. A smooth transfer of power could be seen as a significant victory for the Obama administration, but Afghanistan is instead on the verge of a potentially bloody division along ethnic and geographic lines.</p> <p>Although the official result will not be announced until July 24, Abdullah has already publicly declared himself the victor, despite receiving only 45 percent of the vote. The de facto opposition leader in Afghanistan's nascent democracy, Abdullah handily won the first round of voting, which occurred in April, and was expected to win this runoff with ease. The 8 million votes counted appear to be in excess of the number of people who actually voted. In particular, Ghani seems to have doubled the number of votes he received when compared with the first round of voting. Between now and July 24, the ballots and polling station records will be examined to determine the extent of the fraud. Whereas Abdullah is adamant that all fraudulent votes should be disqualified and removed from the final count, Ghani is keen to prevent excessive delays and have a victor declared as soon as possible.</p> <p>Given that Ghani's power base is in the south and east among the Pashtuns and Abdullah's is in the north and west among the Tajiks, failure to reconcile the two would-be leaders could result in full-fledged civil war. The United States is pushing for a thorough review of the fraud allegations, but it is unclear how much influence Washington has over the process. Secretary of State John Kerry could try to make use of American financial generosity to cajole both sides toward some form of consensus, but the task will not be easy.<p>Updated: Thu Jul 10, 2014</p> 4ae07c5784b22b90843e98c6406f81c7 The Curious Case of North Korea for 07/03/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/07/14/the-curious-case-of-north-korea Thu, 03 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>It is important to not underestimate the oddness of North Korea.</p> <p>Last week, with important diplomatic talks just days away, Pyongyang launched missiles into the nearby Sea of Japan just to make sure that it was not forgotten. Embarrassingly for North Korean supremo Kim Jong Un, the Chinese president was paying a visit to South Korea. In launching the missiles, Kim not only acted like a small child angrily tossing his toys out of his crib but also once again violated a number of United Nations resolutions.</p> <p>North Korea is clearly worried that if its sole benefactor begins to cozy up too closely with its mortal enemy, then its continued viability &#8212; as tenuous as it is &#8212; would evaporate. Prior Pyongyang provocations have exhausted Beijing, and the recent missile launches serve as a reminder that no matter what diplomatic bridges are built with Seoul, an unpredictable and unaccountable tyrant sits on China's border.<p>Updated: Thu Jul 03, 2014</p> adc5327e03b48f1712fd4173bae81e0f Journalism On Trial in Egypt for 06/26/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/06/14/journalism-on-trial-in-egypt Thu, 26 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Three journalists for the news channel Al-Jazeera, including one Australian national, were given prison sentences this week by an Egyptian court for allegedly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. The three now face seven years in prison for simply reporting on day-to-day politics in Egypt. No meaningful evidence was provided by prosecutors at the trial to support the charges of terrorism that were laid against them. Unsurprisingly, their convictions have been receiving intense coverage around the world.</p> <p>Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott stated that he was bewildered by the verdicts but at the same time made clear that he respects the legitimacy of the Egyptian justice system. Abbott stressed that his priorities are ensuring that due process is provided to the Australian, Peter Greste, and working to bring Greste back to Australia as soon as possible.</p> <p>Al-Jazeera, which is no stranger to controversy, is owned by Qatar, a country that itself has been subject to unflattering news coverage in recent weeks in connection with allegations of bribery and corruption in its bid to host the 2022 World Cup. In addition to funding Al-Jazeera, Qatar is also a significant supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been banned again by the secularist Egyptian government after a brief period in power.<p>Updated: Thu Jun 26, 2014</p> 504bbfde8350a7ee00cae9a9fc24c0ed Argentina Battles Vulture Funds for 06/19/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/06/14/argentina-battles-vulture-funds Thu, 19 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>After the first week of the World Cup, the Argentina national team looks slightly ambivalent about its chances of winning the tournament, although the hopes of a nation still hang on superstar Lionel Messi. While the global sports media industry assembled in Brazil to analyze every match statistic in minute detail, further south, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner took to national television this week to announce that her country would not be fulfilling its legal obligation to pay back money that it had borrowed. U.S. courts had earlier issued a judgment compelling Argentina's payment.</p> <p>Her televised speech made use of rhetorical flourishes and finely gauged rhetorical devices, but the facts are relatively clear-cut. Argentina borrowed large sums of money in U.S. dollars from international private lenders. There is no dispute over that much, at least. Unfortunately, the recent decade has been particularly tough for Kirchner's country, which, although blessed with natural resources and an educated populace, has managed to run its financial system and its economy into the ground.</p> <p>As a result, President Kirchner decided that despite Argentina's legal obligations, she would pay back only a portion of what she had borrowed. Creditors should be happy with what they received. Unfortunately, a handful of U.S. hedge funds went into the market and bought some of the debt from lenders desperate to sell the loans for whatever they were worth and walk away from the Argentine meltdown. These funds then refused to take the offer made by Kirchner's government. Instead of accepting less than the face value of the debt that they hold, they are insisting on full repayment.<p>Updated: Thu Jun 19, 2014</p> f81d742fe7c9a8a76f14f798b9abcdca Karachi Airport Terror Attack Raises New Fears for 06/12/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/06/14/karachi-airport-terror-attack-raises-new-fears Thu, 12 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>A 10-member Taliban suicide squad, wearing uniforms stolen from Pakistani security forces, attempted an audacious raid on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, this week. Well-armed and well-trained, they eventually left a death toll of 30. Their goal was simple &#8212; to hijack a plane to use for an even larger-scale attack.</p> <p>Using rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, the Taliban fighters gained access to the airport through a disused terminal. They eventual broke into two teams, and while one created a diversion, the other went in search of a plane to steal. In the end, after five hours of fighting, seven Taliban fighters were killed, and three used their suicide vests to avoid capture. Meanwhile, the busy airport had ground to a halt.</p> <p>The bold assault was in retaliation for the killing last November of Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who was a victim of a U.S. drone attack. Shahidullah Shaid, a Taliban spokesman, stated very clearly that the Karachi raid was just the beginning.<p>Updated: Thu Jun 12, 2014</p> 34cb5e000348d8ffedcac7a487ca5639 Qatar World Cup Debacle Undermines FIFA Leadership for 06/05/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/06/14/qatar-world-cup-debacle-undermines-fifa-leadership Thu, 05 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>The plot revealed this week involving Qatar's use of bribes and vote rigging to "buy" the 2022 World Cup has left the global soccer community dismayed and disappointed. The sporting world was stunned in December 2010 when, against the expert recommendations, the tournament was awarded to the tiny desert nation, which had been written off by many observers. The scandal brings the world's favorite game into disrepute and highlights how multilateral organizations can be captured by corruption when transparency and accountability are not a priority.</p> <p>The Sunday Times has reported receiving millions of documents &#8212; including emails, bank statements, phone records, flight logs and various communications &#8212; that methodically lay out how Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari and a senior member of FIFA, football's global governing board, paid handsomely to garner enough votes for his country's long-shot bid to be successful. African members of the selection committee were a particular focus for bin Hammam's generosity, and he used the Asian Football Confederation and the bank account of his own daughter, Aisha, as a way of distributing cash.</p> <p>Importantly, evidence implies that FIFA insiders had a clear idea of the bin Hammam plot. As head of the Asian region, he would have been expected to maintain some semblance of neutrality as a number of his members &#8212; including Australia, Japan and South Korea &#8212; bid alongside his native Qatar. Despite claims otherwise, emails have surfaced showing that bin Hammam was closely coordinating his work with Hassan al-Thawadi, leader of the Qatar bid group.<p>Updated: Thu Jun 05, 2014</p> c8d678d9b5b222698d01711c0f7dd15c Electoral Results Reveal International Anxiety for 05/29/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/05/14/electoral-results-reveal-international-anxiety Thu, 29 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>International election results this week leave the Obama administration facing many awkward questions. The polling has exposed voters' deep anxieties and lack of confidence in their future.</p> <p>First, European voters have demonstrated an embarrassing rejection of Brussels and the "European experiment." The honors previously lauded on the European Union as a peacemaker and force for good, which ultimately resulted in a Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, now seem only a distant memory.</p> <p>Britain delivered a solid rebuke through the victory in European elections of the UK Independence Party, led by Nigel Farage. Farage is now targeting opposition Labour seats in the next general election, expected in 2015. The goal of UKIP is an in-out referendum that would be put to British voters about their future in Europe. The Conservatives have agreed to hold such a plebiscite in 2017, although both their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, and the left-wing Labour Party have so far managed to dodge the question. Underlying the debate on the role of Brussels in the lives of Britons is concern over continued waves of immigration from newly admitted EU member states and whether this is improving or hindering economic growth.<p>Updated: Thu May 29, 2014</p> 5fbf769aa64e810e83895ec1a6b76562 Bolivian President, Soccer Star for 05/22/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/05/14/bolivian-president-soccer-star Thu, 22 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Evo Morales, the socialist president of Bolivia, made international news this week when he signed a contract to play professional soccer for the local team, Sports Boys. At 54, this is a particularly noteworthy achievement, although Morales will only be earning the minimum salary permitted, a mere $200 a month.</p> <p>Age has not made Morales a timid or reluctant player. Instead, he is known for a physical, if at times cynical, style of play. A collision with a goalkeeper in 2006 left the new president with a broken nose. Four years later, he felt it necessary to knee an opponent in the private parts in order to express his thoughts on a particular passage of play. As an accommodation for his advanced years, the president of Sports Boys announced that Morales will be able to pick the matches he plays in and will be limited to 20 minutes per game.</p> <p>With the World Cup in Brazil only a few weeks away, the global sport of football is again center stage in the minds of billions of fans. The sport commands great loyalty, particularly in Latin America. Having a senior political figure such as Morales put on his boots and take to the pitch sends an idiosyncratic, Hugo Chavez-like message to his constituents that their leader is both physically fit and in tune with their sporting preferences.<p>Updated: Thu May 22, 2014</p> 4440a77d857db408b030f88dda601c85 Turkey to Pay Price for 1974 Invasion of Cyprus for 05/15/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/05/14/turkey-to-pay-price-for-1974-invasion-of-cyprus Thu, 15 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Forty years after Turkish soldiers invaded their island neighbor of Cyprus, a European court has ruled this week that Turkey must pay compensation to Cypriots for their pain and suffering. The Turkish government has protested the ruling.</p> <p>Cyprus has historically been composed of a Greek-majority south and a Turkish-majority north. In 1974, after a coup in the capital, Nicosia, Turkey invaded the north of the island to protect the Turkish population there. Since then, Cyprus has been politically partitioned, with a U.N.-policed border cutting across the island. Only Turkey recognizes the legitimacy of the diplomatically isolated government in the north, whereas the south was admitted into the European Union in 2004 and joined the eurozone in 2008. Based on recent calculations, approximately 80 percent of Cypriots are Greek, with most of the remainder being Turkish.</p> <p>The European Court of Human Rights placed a hefty price tag of approximately $123 million on the damage done by the invasion. Ankara promptly rejected the validity and enforceability of the judgment, warning that recently launched reunification talks could easily be derailed.<p>Updated: Thu May 15, 2014</p> ea4d3addbc205749bb2e8e073d857cea Kidnapped Nigerian Girls Pawns in War on Women for 05/08/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/05/14/kidnapped-nigerian-girls-pawns-in-war-on-women Thu, 08 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Less than a month after 276 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted by the terrorist group Boko Haram, eight more girls were kidnapped earlier this week from the village of Warabe, in the north of the country, only 60 miles from Chibok, the site of the original attack. The Nigerian government appears incapable of either rescuing the Chibok girls or preventing further abductions. Members of Boko Haram have boasted in recent days that a number of the schoolgirls are being sold in neighboring countries for just $12 each.</p> <p>The horrific story has made international news, with Western governments pledging to help Nigeria rescue these girls. Secretary of State John Kerry called the abductions an "unconscionable crime," and Britain is sending a team of experts to assist. The government of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has been frustratingly slow in both responding to the crisis specifically and making any discernible progress against the al-Qaida-affiliated Islamist militants generally. No girls have been rescued so far, despite mounting anger among Nigerians, including mass demonstrations.</p> <p>The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, recently released a video taking credit for the kidnappings, in which he stated: "I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. ... There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell." Reports have circulated in recent days of girls being smuggled into nearby Chad and Cameroon, making any future rescue attempts even more difficult.<p>Updated: Thu May 08, 2014</p> 6b7737e1d286fa66c546bdb19271aa9f Prince George Visit Quashes Australian Republican Murmurs for 05/01/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/04/14/prince-george-visit-quashes-australian-republican-murmurs Thu, 01 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>The visit Down Under by the infant Prince George, accompanied by his parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, was a great success. Leading republican campaigners in Australia are conceding that the monarchy is safe there for years to come, as Australians reveled in the pomp of the royal tour, the 50th in the history of the "Lucky Country."</p> <p>The debate to replace the British monarch with a homegrown head of state has been raging here for several years, although a referendum in 1999 clearly backed the current constitutional arrangements. For those in favor of turning Australia into a republic, the argument is often presented in terms of simply wanting an Australian to be able to occupy the highest position in the country rather than a foreign import. Unfortunately, this view fails to reflect the widespread affection that many Australians feel toward Queen Elizabeth II and, increasingly, the junior members of the royal family.</p> <p>Prince William endeared himself to many Australians when he remarked last week that both he and his brother, Prince Harry, would be attending the centenary of the Gallipoli landings, an important event in Australian history when Australian soldiers attempted to seize the Dardanelles and take the Ottoman Empire out of World War I. Meanwhile, Duchess Kate resonated with many Australian mothers when she made reference to George's noticeable plumpness and let it be known that the 9-month-old was a grumpy flier.<p>Updated: Thu May 01, 2014</p> 758fa839fb5059b07805f66929eccf40 Japanese Ship Impounded by China Over WWII Debt for 04/24/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/04/14/japanese-ship-impounded-by-china-over-wwii-debt Thu, 24 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>A Shanghai court this week ordered that Baosteel Emotion, a Japanese cargo ship, be seized over an unpaid debt dating back to World War II. The seizure was promptly denounced by a senior Japanese government spokesman, demonstrating how sensitive tensions in the region are as President Barack Obama kicks off his much-heralded tour of Asia.</p> <p>The tour was already postponed once, when a carefully orchestrated government shutdown last October meant Obama was stuck stateside rather than enjoying a flight on Air Force One. As a result, many Asians wonder how long the United States can remain focused on their region before other priorities distract Washington. China's influence in Asia continues to grow, putting it in potential conflict with Japan, as well as with other countries, such as South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. Coincidently, all are planned stops on Obama's diplomatic travels.</p> <p>The story behind the impounding of Baosteel Emotion illustrates several of the deep fault lines that Obama must navigate over the next two years. The Shanghai Maritime Court ordered the seizure of the cargo ship because it is owned by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, a successor company to Daido Kaiun, which had rented two ships in the 1930s from Chung Wei Steamship Co. Unfortunately, the Japanese Imperial Navy took control of the two ships and they were subsequently sunk during the course of World War II.<p>Updated: Thu Apr 24, 2014</p> 0358a9f70b01ee750506550ce034cf60 Boko Haram Extends Reign of Terror in Nigeria for 04/17/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/04/14/boko-haram-extends-reign-of-terror-in-nigeria Thu, 17 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>The battle for Africa continued this week as members of the Islamist militant organization Boko Haram kidnapped over 100 girls from a girls secondary school in Nigeria. This came only days after more than 70 people were killed when a bomb exploded at a bus station in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, which also left 124 people injured.</p> <p>Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is forbidden," has been stepping up attacks in recent weeks across Nigeria. Once the Islamist militants stormed the school, they apparently spent several hours choosing the girls they would abduct and ferrying them away in transport trucks. In an attack on another school earlier this year, members of Boko Haram merely forced the girls to return to their villages.</p> <p>The Abuja explosion made headlines around the world. The 6:30 a.m. explosion occurred less than 2 miles from where Nigeria's president lives, State House. Reports are circulating that a car bomb was used, which left a 3-foot-deep blast crater. Further injuries were caused when, as a result of the initial explosion, other cars in the parking lot caught fire. The scale of the injuries was so great that local hospitals soon began making public requests for blood donations in order to save as many of the injured patients as they could.<p>Updated: Thu Apr 17, 2014</p> 6a07d775349e480f0687091fb0528372 Hang 'Em High in Tehran for 04/10/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/04/14/hang-em-high-in-tehran Thu, 10 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>The gallows are working overtime in Iran.</p> <p>Those who hoped that the election last June of moderate Hasan Rouhani as the Iranian president would be a step forward for the theocratic state will be disappointed by reports circulating this week that executions have actually increased. According to Iran Human Rights, a group based in Norway, the number of executions was 15 percent higher in 2013, despite President Rouhani's attempts to moderate the image and policies of Tehran.</p> <p>Almost 500 people were hanged in the weeks and months that followed Rouhani's surprise election last summer. By comparison, just 200 were executed in the preceding months. Elected on promises of reform, Rouhani has seen his limitations becoming evident by the boldness with which the more conservative elements in power have proceeded with executions. The message seems to be that no matter what changes are actually carved out by Rouhani and his supporters in the realm of either the much-needed structural economic reform or the delicate nuclear negotiations, the totalitarian regime will itself not be dislodged.<p>Updated: Thu Apr 10, 2014</p> 97dc0280d476207a38a47a39d5ea9d88 Tragic Death Forces Further Saudi Reform for 04/03/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/04/14/tragic-death-forces-further-saudi-reform Thu, 03 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Reform in Saudi Arabia continued this week, as plans were announced to allow 100 female nurses to retrain as paramedics in order to provide emergency medical treatment. The immediate cause was the scandal of a young woman who collapsed while suffering a heart attack at an all-women's university and died because male paramedics were not allowed on campus to treat her.</p> <p>Saudi rules governing what women can and cannot do and how they must interact with men are notoriously strict. As a result, activities that would be commonplace in all other parts of the world are strictly forbidden in the theocratic kingdom, producing surprising and sometimes tragic results.</p> <p>This was made clear once again when Amna Bawazeer collapsed on the campus of King Saud University. Reports have circulated that when male paramedics arrived to treat Bawazeer, they were denied entry for approximately one hour, until all female students in the building were confirmed to be in full Islamic dress. When Bawazeer's brother arrived, he was similarly prevented from entering. Although it was his sister who was dying, there could have been a chance that he would have seen other uncovered women as he tried to save Amna's life.<p>Updated: Thu Apr 03, 2014</p> 36edd07c041a96bdae301581a711788b Disappointed French Voters Drift to the Right for 03/27/2014 https://www.creators.com/read/timothy-spangler/03/14/disappointed-french-voters-drift-to-the-right Thu, 27 Mar 2014 00:00:00 -0700 <p>French President Francois Hollande saw his Socialist Party battered and bruised in local elections this week. The embarrassing results send a clear message that voters are frustrated with the lack of progress being made in the two years since Hollande captured the Elysee Palace from the center-right incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy.</p> <p>The ferocious losses for the Socialist were widespread and put a number of supposedly safe city councils at risk. Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement showed strong gains across the country and is in a strong position for next week's second round of voting. Unfortunately, the far-right National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, also did very well, throwing a wrench into some of the electoral calculations for the runoff.</p> <p>Under the French system, a candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round wins outright. If no one crosses the threshold, the top two vote-getters run again one week later. This can provide for the reversal of initial results. For example, the mayoral race in Paris saw the conservative Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet receive more votes than Socialist Anne Hidalgo, but it is expected that in the second round, the Greens will direct members to support the left-leaning Hidalgo.<p>Updated: Thu Mar 27, 2014</p>