2 August 2017   Leave a comment

One of the more nettlesome issues in world politics is the discrepancy between nations and states.  Nations self-identify–they are groups of people who believe that there is something distinctively different about their group that separates them from others.  By this criterion, there are about 2,000 communities with populations greater than 100,000 which could qualify as nations.  But there are only 194 states in the international system as determined by membership in the United Nations.  Thus, the term “nation-state” is highly misleading.  Even within nations there are disputes about what constitutes membership in the group.  No where is this issue more interesting than in the case of the American nation: who belongs?

Democracy Now conducted a survey of voters in the 2016 election posing many questions to voters that touch on this question, and the survey yielded some fascinating results.  There seems to be widespread and strong support for three criteria:  1) Respect for American political institutions and laws; 2) American citizenship; and 3) a willingness to accept diverse and religious backgrounds.  But the third criterion breaks down among different groups within the two major political parties, and the difference between most American and voters who voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 primaries is dramatic.  According to the study:

“Thus, substantial numbers of Americans, particularly among Republicans and Trump primary supporters, appeared to embrace a conception of citizenship predicated on birthplace and especially Christian faith. Both criteria polarized the parties more than any other, suggesting that the politics of immigration will remain fraught if the debate revolves around whether adherents of non-Christian religions—especially Muslims—can be truly American.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signaled a possible shift in US policy toward North Korea.  He suggested that the right course of action for the US would be to “have a dialogue” with North Korea.  Tillerson is exactly right and we should hope that he will be able to initiate negotiations with North Korea.  His remarks continued:

“We have reaffirmed our position towards North Korea, that what we are doing, we do not seek a regime change; we do not seek the collapse of the regime; we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula; we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel. And we’re trying to convey to the North Koreans we are not your enemy, we are not your threat, but you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us, and we have to respond. And we hope that at some point, they will begin to understand that and that we would like to sit and have a dialogue with them about the future that will give them the security they seek and the future economic prosperity for North Korea, but that will then promote economic prosperity throughout Northeast Asia.”

More than anything, North Korea is responding to what it perceives as an existential threat by the US.  Until the US appreciates the North Korean perception, there is little hope for any progress.  Indeed, until the US indicates that it understands the North Korean perception, then all US pressure on the country merely confirms its fears.

Climate change will affect everyone on the planet, but some areas of the world will be more seriously affected than others.  One region of special concern is South Asia.  New research indicates that some areas in the region may be uninhabitable if climate change occurs unchecked.  The abstract to the research paper reads as follows:

“….a wet-bulb temperature of 35°C can be considered an upper limit on human survivability. On the basis of an ensemble of high-resolution climate change simulations, we project that extremes of wet-bulb temperature in South Asia are likely to approach and, in a few locations, exceed this critical threshold by the late 21st century under the business-as-usual scenario of future greenhouse gas emissions. The most intense hazard from extreme future heat waves is concentrated around densely populated agricultural regions of the Ganges and Indus river basins. Climate change, without mitigation, presents a serious and unique risk in South Asia, a region inhabited by about one-fifth of the global human population, due to an unprecedented combination of severe natural hazard and acute vulnerability.”

The wet-bulb temperature refers to the combination of heat and humidity.

Heatwave in April 2017

HEAT-WAVE in India

Posted August 2, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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