Monday, December 8, 2014

News Briefs 12.8.15

The Civil Unrest Roundup

We're going through a lot as a country right now. As such, we're experiencing a fair amount of civil unrest that will, in all likelihood, continue. I think it might be important to note that we are not the only ones.

In Hong Kong, students are protesting the Chinese National People's Congress' decision on current electoral reform stating that, instead of democratic election, there will be a standing committee electing the next chief executive. These protests are huge, shutting down infrastructure and having some protestors undergo hunger strikes against the decision. This has been going on since September. 

Syria is still experiencing a civil war, which started in 2011 after pro-democracy protests were shot down and then resurged with hundreds of thousands of people continuing protest. There has been an estimated death toll of 191,000—though that figure is from August and has, in all likelihood, climbed much higher. The fighting has resulted in war crimes, the use of chemical weapons, and a massive number of refugees fleeing the country.

Venezuela has been protesting for better human rights since January, blocking infrastructure and protesting various murders, rapes, disappearances, and general violence and instability throughout the country gone unhelped by their government. 

The Central African Republic has been going nearly steady civil unrest since the sixties, but recently tensions have risen so high between various rebel groups after going through three presidents in as many years that a UN force of peacekeepers has been sent to the country to try and quell the violence, which may or may not be religiously based. 

Mexico has been experiencing a series of protests against governmental incompetence and antagonism following the disappearance of 46 students from the town of Iguala in September. 26 police officers have been arrested for involvement.

Ukraine is still in civil war following the overthrow of the former president last January. There are two main forces, the European-leaning Kiev government and the pro-Russian separatists backed by Moscow. Thousands have died. 

And more. Isreal and Palestine. Sudan and South Sudan. So many more. 

Stay safe at the protests, everybody. 


Peter Pan Live

In spite of the political uprisings across the country over the last couple of weeks, there are still some happy moments we were able to salvage in this country. NBC aired its second-ever "live TV musical" on Friday, December 4th - Peter Pan. I'm going to jot down a few of my thoughts, since they're more important than anyone else's...

I admittedly have yet to watch it; I had my mom DVR it for me because a friend of mine (Jason Gotay) played Tootles in it (#humblebrag) and I love to watch everything he's in (side note: you should look him up on YouTube and watch some of his concert performances; he's fantastic). At any rate, there was a lot of dissension over last year's production of The Sound of Music on NBC, starring Carrie Underwood, whom audience members lambasted for defiling Julie Andrews's work. 

I think it's perfect that I haven't watched it yet, because I can objectively say that, regardless of its flaws, I appreciate the fact that anyone who has access to a TV in America also has free access to live musical theater in their living rooms. It's great publicity and it's a way of making musical theater universal and accessible to so many people who can't afford Broadway/Off-Broadway tickets. I know I'm not saying anything original, here, but what I will say--that I don't think anyone's said yet, at least not on Facebook or Twitter--is that offering a scathing criticism of a work does not make you intelligent. Someone recently told me about a study she read that said that people love to criticize because they feel that, by pointing out flaws, they're demonstrating a keen eye and an in-depth knowledge of whatever it is they're criticizing; so, in a way, criticizing makes people feel intelligent. I haven't found this study yet, but it sounds plausible enough. I'm guilty of it--or at least I was until I realized that it requires just as much intellect to find the redeeming qualities in something that you may not like. And not only does it require intellect, but it also requires open-mindedness, patience, and empathy. Having watched The Sound of Music last year, I can concede that Carrie Underwood wasn't a good actress and the role wasn't quite right for her, vocally at least. But, having been in a show before, I can admire the incredible work she put into the role, the hours she spent rehearsing for it, and how she humbly received the horrible comments people wrote about her on social media. 

I don't mean to be self-righteous, but I do think that finding the good in something you didn't like requires a LOT of work, so there's no need to criticize something in order to boost your self esteem. So, to all the people who tore apart the production of Peter Pan, watch it again. I'm sure there are plenty of things that were strong and redeemable. And I'm sure that if you can find them, you'll enjoy yourself more as you're watching it. And you'll enjoy yourself more the next time you're watching something.

This weekend, the United States transferred the largest group of inmates from Guantanamo Bay to Uruguay. Six detainees were transferred from Cuba and resettled ( for the first time ever) in South America. Although this big transfer has been public knowledge since last year, it has taken this long, because... Bureaucracy. Former Secretary of State, Chuck Hagel, took his sweet time approving these low level transfers which eventually led to his resignation. Despite the delays, there have been thirty transfers so far (since November) under Hagel's watch, which is more than his predecessor, Leon Panetta.

Last year, president Obama pledged to eventually have Guantanamo Bay closed. The Obama administration argued that housing inmates on domestic soil, would save tax payers a ton of money. Along with their intentions of bringing down the inmate population to double digits, there is also the concern about the released inmates safety. Many of these inmates cannot be released back into their home countries because the level of security is not high enough. Luckily, Uruguay stepped up to take in the recently released six inmates, in a humanitarian attempt.

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