On August 20, 2015, North and South Korea exchanged weapon fires in the Demilitarized zone (Chosun Ilbo 8/21/2015). The Korean newspaper reports that the “…North fired anti-aircraft guns and direct-fire weapons at new South Korean loudspeakers that are blasting propaganda across the demilitarized zone. South Korea retaliated by lobbing 155 mm howitzer rounds into the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone.” There is no report of any military or civilian causality from the exchanged fire.
The New York Times reports that multiple analysts believe the recently installed large array of speakers in the South might be the cause of North Korea’s initial aggression (8/21/2015). South Korea has been using the speakers to demoralize North Korean soldiers near the Demilitarized zone. North Korean officials have demanded the South to dismantle the speaker array or face military force.
While gathering real information within North Korea is difficult, the provocative response by North Korea demonstrates the dire low moral atmosphere within the North Korean military ranks. By heightening the military readiness, Kim Jung Un, the leader of North Korea, is also attempting to consolidate his power at a time of multiple purging and executions of senior North Korean government officials.
The South Korean reaction should be cautious but also confident that this particular incident won’t develop into something more worrisome. Given the increasing economic and political ties South Korean President Park Geun-hye has made with both China and Russia, North Korea is hard pressed to find any significant political support for its actions in the region. In fact, since Kim Jung Un rose to power, there has not been one action by North Korea that has not raised concerns from both China and Russia.
If North Korea continues to act provocatively in the name of consolidating power for Kim Jung Un, then the country faces significant international political isolation even with its traditional staunchest supporters. China and Russia are more interested in cooperating with South Korea then continuously defending a failing state of North Korea.
The fall of a failed state requires nothing but time. Hopefully, the current trend would bring a more smooth and peaceful reunification resolution for the Koreas.
The beautiful images of Pluto sent by the space probe New Horizon demonstrates not only the beauty the space exploration program can provide but also the necessity of continuing the program. With all the never ending craziness from the world’s political, economical, and social spectrum, the image of Pluto provides a momentary peace among many as future generations of scientists can look towards the stars to dream big.
While the images and data sent by the New Horizon are stunningly beautiful, it is more stunning to know that the program almost did not made it to fruition. The combination of NASA internal skepticism, Congressional funding problems, and a potential lack of fuel almost derailed the project (The New York Times 7/19/2015).
NASA’s initial skepticism and the lack of fuel problem are part of the possible problems that can arise from a project of this type. However, the Congressional funding problem shouldn’t have become a serious factor in derailing the program.
The cost of the New Horizon project exceeds $700 million, and there ought to be scrutiny in the decision making process of whether such projects should get funded. However, the decision making process ought to be made in the realm of whether such project would be successful and whether the project services the greater good for mankind.
It is interesting to observe that no one is commenting on the clear picture of Pluto from a political, budgetary point of view. We are all instead in awe of witnessing the beauty of mankind’s continuous endeavor of pushing the limits of scientific progress. This type of scientific progress inspires younger generations to dream big about a world focused on scientific discoveries and not on petty politics.
To keep the dream alive, Congress should not play around with the budgets of scientific studies as part of a politics of chess. Instead, a steady commitment on scientific projects would keep the dreams alive for many generations to come.
The current fiscal crisis in Greece seems to be repeating in a series of events. Instead of presenting a viable plan to even temporarily satisfy foreign creditors, the government of Greece has been dancing on the issue of fundamentally reforming the country’s budget and addressing a long term solution in tackling the debt crisis.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras should be credited for recognizing the fiscal realities of Greece and focusing on, first, preventing a Greek default, and second, securing a long term plan with his European partners on addressing this fiscal crisis.
By no means had the Prime Minister given into the demands of the creditors easily. His initial hardline approach, which some might see as admirable, allowed the people of Greece to voice their dissatisfaction with the rest of Europe. Despite the heroic attempts to demand concessions from the European creditors, Germany and others simply did not blink, and Greece was positioned worse at the negotiating table.
After several anxious weeks of a political standoff, Greece and the European partners are back at the negotiating table. Domestically, the Greek government is facing significant political pressure against the austerity measures demanded by the European finance ministers. The bailout measurement is largely opposed by the anti-austerity wing of the Syriza (The Prime Minister’s own party) members, and the bailout vote will not only test the political opposition to the Prime Minister’s austerity budget but also the stability of the Greek political climate. (Reuters 8/13/2015)
Even if the Greek government is able to pass the austerity measure, the European creditors are skeptical on the political continuity of the Greek government. If there is a rapid shift in the political makeup in the Greek government, then the confidence of the Greek government’s ability to carry out the austerity measures is in doubt.
Frankly, the austerity measures will theoretically hurt the Greek economy. However, there has been little domestic political accountability on the Greek fiscal situation. Furthermore, without a fundamental change in the Greece’s finances, the current fiscal debt crisis, even if Europe and other creditors decide to categorically forgive them, will come back again. No matter how the current situation develops, once Greece reach a hypothetical situation of resolving this issue, the constituents ought to scrutinize their government’s finances more carefully during the elections.
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