24 December 2017   Leave a comment

The US State Department announced on Friday that it would supply lethal weapons to Ukraine to aid the government in suppressing the rebellion in the eastern part of the country.  The conflict in Ukraine has deep historical roots, but the cause of the immediate crisis stems from popular protests against the Ukrainian government in late 2013.  The protests overthrew a Russian-backed leader and led to a Russian takeover of Crimea and Russian support for separatists in the east.  That conflict has waxed and waned over the years despite attempts at cease-fires.  The US has avoided sending lethal weaponry into Ukraine to fight the separatist, fearing an escalation of the conflict which might give Russia an excuse to annex outright the Russian-speaking parts of the country.  Needless to say, the Russians interpret the American move as aggressive and I fear that the conflict, which has already taken 10,000 lives, might escalate quickly.

 

New Zealand’s Mount Taranaki is the third natural feature of the country’s geography to be granted legal status as a person.  The mountain joins the Whanganui river as a legal personality.  The ruling is significant because it protects these geographic features in a distinctive and effective manner.  The decision is a victory for the Taranaki iwi, a group within the Maori nation, who have suffered under the Treaty of Waitangi which founded New Zealand in 1840.  The decision also recognizes the fact that the Maori rights have long been ignored in the islands’ governance and is an attempt to redress those grievances.  But the decision is also important because it is a fundamental change in the way humans recognize their relationship to the natural environment.

Mount Taranaki

 

In the first year of World War I, allied and German troops celebrated what has come to be known as the “Christmas Truce”.  It was an extraordinary event in military history and one that rattled the military command centers of both sides.  German and British soldiers decided not to continue firing at each other and instead came out of their trenches and exchanged gifts, drank together, and played soccer.  The personal accounts of the incident are deeply moving (for another account, click here).  The soldiers recognized that their common humanity overrode their national identity.  Their officers realized that such a recognition undermined their authority and the objectives of the war.  It is too bad that the soldiers did not prevail.

Posted December 24, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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