Alexonomic's Outlook for 2013: South America

Yes, the Brazilians are still the centerpiece of South American economic growth, yet there are competitors arising. While Venezuala faces a period of uncertainty with the potential replacement of Hugo Chavez, Argentina offers a renewed challenge to the Falklands under Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Alexonomic's Outlook for 2013: Europe

Europe reminds many historians of conditions during the 1930s. Economically depressed countries are embracing extremist political parties with racial divide, riots, and anger as the symptoms. Currently, most of the population is aware of the European debt crisis. Although a serious as the economic crisis is, the side effects of lower economic output can be more serious.

Americans and their Guns

To stray from the Predictions of 2013 series, I did an infographic of the gun control debate raging in the US, along with some statistics. The objectives of Obama gun control rules come plainly from the White House publication on the topic. As one can see, the proposed regulations are quite practical.

Alexonomics' Outlook for 2013: Africa

Egypt has often been the focus of news in Africa as of late. The removal of Mubarak and election of Mohammed Morsi has proven to be an interesting turn of events, but the excitement is far from over. Morsi symbolically removed ties from the Muslim Brotherhood, but that move hardly removes the influence the party has on the President.

A guide to Environmental Economics

Often, articles will be conclusions with a few supporting facts that will often sway the reader. I find this problematic for two reasons. First, the reader does not have the chance to fully understand the topic because no background is given. Secondly, the reader doesn't really have an opportunity to disagree with the writer's conclusion if the reader has little to no knowledge of the topic.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Renewing the Space Race

Captain James Kirk of the Starship Enterprise flies around the Universe with the mandate to boldly go where no man has gone before.

It may be fiction, but reality is slowly approaching the final frontier.

Space has often been one of mystery for mankind, with some civilizations worshiping the heavenly bodies in our solar system while others such as Copernicus and Galileo have studied it. Attitudes were high when the United States landed a man on the moon, but ever since then little has been done. However, slowly the modern world seems to be becoming more excited about the prospects of exploring space.

With excitement arising from news such as Curiosity the Mars rover conducting experiments on the red planet indicating that the planet was friendly to simple microbial life forms ages ago, or Voyager 1 becoming the first man-made object to leave the solar system, the public has again become friendlier towards space exploration.
Maybe one day. Although warp drive is being worked on by NASA.
Most recently the hype was centering on Mars One, a project that intends to install the first human settlement on Mars by 2023 and has asked for applications from anyone to be part of the team. Already 78 000 individuals have completed the initial part of the application process. Most obvious is the question of the feasibility of the mission, which the organization has prepared a less than remarkable answer to. Generally, the Mars One project states that they will require a Launcher, a Lander, a Transit Vehicle on Mars, a Supply and Living Unit and a Life Support Unit while also developing a Mars Suit. However, no specifics have been given.

While Mars One grapples with the idea of colonizing the large red planet, private space companies are arising. The most popular one has been SpaceX, which signed an agreement with NASA to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. While the media has been focusing on SpaceX, other companies are developing new intriguing spaceships such as Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo while Blue Origin led by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is developing the Space Vehicle. Bigelow Aerospace’s goal is to create habitats in space, and already has two prototypes in orbit. However, these companies ambitions pale in comparison to Golden Spike Corporation, which is offering a trip to the moon, for $500 million a ticket.

With private industry joining the space race, the world of Captain James Kirk may become a reality sooner rather than later. 

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Idle Hands in Iraq

Violence, death, and blood being shed are all occurring in a country in the Middle East.

No, we’re not talking about Syria.

Although Syria has been popularized in the media due to their civil war, Iraq has experienced growing violence as April has the highest fatality count by sectarian violence since 2008. In response, Baghdad has restricted 10 television channels accusing them of promoting violence. One of the channels blocked was Al Jazeera, a news channel.

Since the Americans left Iraq, old tensions between the Sunni and Shia Muslims have returned along with rivalries with the Kurds have erupted into violence. Most of the western world might wonder why the Sunnis and Shiites hate each other so much, as they belong to the same religious umbrella – Islam.
Historically, Sunnis believe themselves to be the keepers of the truth faith of Islam, as the word Sunni derives from “Sunnah” meaning customary practices. Most of the Islamic world identifies themselves as Sunni, as 90% of the 1.4 billion Muslims in the world would check off Sunni to identify themselves. The minority Shiites occupy 89% of Iran’s population, with scattered communities across the Middle East. Believed to have been descended from Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, and son in law Ali, the Shiites were followers of Ali until he was assassinated. The Shiites continued to follow Hussein, who they believed to be the third Imam, but were forced to migrate to Iraq by the Ummayad dynasty, who controlled the Islamic empire at the time and identified themselves as Sunni. Hussein was later killed by the Ummayads, which caused the large split and dissension between the groups. Ashoura marks the death of Hussein, celebrated by Shiites through self mutilation.

Additionally, the spiritual difference between the Shiites and Sunnis simply is that the Sunnis do not believe in a form of sainthood, while the Shiites believe that some leaders are appointed by God and are free of sin. Additionally, Shiites believe that Mahdi will be Muhammad al Mahdi who was last seen in 874, while Sunni’s believe the Mahdi will be named Muhammad, and be a descendent of Muhammad.  

As the modern age turned the world into a much smaller place, Shiites and Sunni’s rivalry was renewed as a Kuwaiti Sheikh stated that Shiites were “the world’s biggest display of heathens and idolatry” while al Zarqawi (former leader of al – Qaeda) stated that the Shiites were a larger enemy than the Americans. Hezbollah, interestingly enough is Shia, while al Qaeda is Sunni. Thus one can see that not all Islamic militant groups are alike, and would most likely not unify due to their religious differences.

Zarqawi, not a fan of Americans, and Shias. 
It is important to understand the history between the groups to properly look at the violence in proper context. Iraq is led by a Shiite government, and have reportedly tried to stop sectarian violence by restraining their own Shiite militias. This is opposing to Sunni opinion, as some have said they face discrimination as the government ties Sunni believes with terrorist activity. One opinion is of SOS Iraq coordinator Dirk Adriaensens stating that the government is to blame.

“After ten years of occupation there are still no basic services. People are randomly arrested, locked up without charge, tortured, women, children and men are being raped. The talk about sectarianism is wrong. These are not sectarian protests. These are protests against the unbearable situation for the Iraqi people. There is poverty, there is unemployment, there is no healthcare, and the education system has collapsed.”

It is most likely these reason stated by Mr. Adriaensens that have caused violence. With little hope for a better future, idle hands are the devils workshop may be the best idiom to describe the violence in Iraq. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Pakistani Pessimism

Three cheers for democracy.

At least this has been the general reaction from the international community. It is appropriate, as the election in Pakistan marks the first time that a successful transition between civilian governments has taken place without military intervention.

India, long wary of the Pakistani military, has expressed excitement over the elections. The excitement may be misplaced, as newly elected Nawaz Sharif was the leader of Pakistan during the Kargil War which saw 700 Indians killed, while 1600 Pakistanis perished. However, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh looks to the future after extending his “congratulations to Mr. Nawaz Sharif and his party for their emphatic victory in Pakistan’s elections,” and invited Sharif to visit India. 

Mr. Sharif has far more urgent problems than dealing with the Kashmir region and Indian politics. As this blog has stated before, Pakistan has urgent education, infrastructure needs while also dealing with corruptions and religious zealots. Historically, Mr. Sharif was a conservative when it came to religious issues as he established Shariat Ordinance and asked the Ministry of Religion to recommend the steps needed to be taken for the Islamization of Pakistan.
Can religious conservatism and economic freedom mix?
This man attempts to find out.

In terms of the economy, Mr. Sharif is a staunch believer in the private sector, reflected in the large increase the Karachi stock market after his election. During his previous terms, Sharif created the privatization program which allowed a nuclear policy, as well as privatizing several industries while taking credit for building the largest superhighway in Pakistan. Large projects such as the Ghazie-Barotah Hydropower plant were meant to stimulate the economy. However, at the end of Sharif’s second term foreign debt and inflation were at an all time high while the IMF (International Monetary Fund) suspended aid as they demanded that Pakistani finances be sorted out.

Mr. Sharif stated to international media that he would be inviting Mr. Singh to Pakistan, while also stating that his opponent Mr. Imran Khan had little to complain about. Of course, Imran Khan is a former famous cricketer captaining the international team from 1971 till 1992. Promising to crack down on corruption, end following the United State’s war on terror and hanging the killers of Benazir Bhutto,  he urged change even while lying in a hospital in Lahore. He wished “to transfer power to the common people” and asked for support.

It is not without warrant to state that Mr. Sharif is more of the same in Pakistan, as Mr. Sharif is not new to power or new to allegations of corruption himself. The actions Mr. Sharif takes will be more important to watch rather than how he attained his power, and will be not only closely watched by the international community, but also by his own military and opposition.

Pakistan has had internal problems for decades now. It is up to Mr. Sharif to provide solutions. 

Monday, 13 May 2013

A Qatari Quibble

A small peninsula in the Middle East is quickly attempting to rebrand itself as a more liberal, business minded country with progressive policies.

It is for a good reason.

Qatar has been seen for a long time as a similar nation to Saudi Arabia by the international community, as the nation is not distinct in language, culture, religion or ethnicity. This all changed when the Saudis could not defend Qatar in the Gulf War, which resulted in Qatar seeking American assistance to alleviate their security concerns.  In return for allowing the American military base installations, hundreds of Qatari students began to study in the United States; one such place was Northwestern University. A student of the University named Usama Hamed recently videotaped a part of the Villaggio Mall burning down in the capital city of Doha. The fire killed 19 people, and the video that Hamed recorded received around 200 000 views in less than four hours on YouTube.
The wealth of Qatar.

As a journalist student, Hamed visited the site two days later being curious of the beginnings of the fire. Instead of being allowed to continue his investigation or simply being turned down from viewing the site, Hamed was arrested and spent 10 nights in jail. He was then let go on bail after signing a document stating he could not leave the country, and if he attempted he would be placed in jail.

Hamed’s experience is one of a continual problem in Qatar, as media is relatively suppressed in the country. Although 98% of voters in a constitutional referendum voted to guarantee the freedom of the press in 2003, oldpress law continues to govern the nation. Provisions in the law such as preventing the critique of the Emir, or prohibiting the publishing of any printed matter that could harm the reputation of an individual can be described as anything but progressive. Journalists in the country do not wish to test the law, and therefore will not even print the name of a person who is convicted of a crime due.

As Qatar’s $15.5 billion airport is being constructed in preparation for the World Cup in 2022, the nation will need to adjust their antiquated press laws when the international spotlight is on the small Arabic peninsula. 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Motheronomics of Mother's Day

Mothers often can be described as the backbone of society. They raise the future in most countries, from young engineers to doctors, carpenters to plumbers, or writers and musicians. Often, the role of the mother has been unappreciated in Western society, which is quite unfortunate as mothers have an extremely important role in any culture.

The holiday entitled Mother's Day was created in 1908, when a woman named Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in West Virginia, and had it officially recognized in the United States by 1914. Now, recognized as an official day of recognition for mothers internationally, Mother's Day celebrates the role of females raising children across the world. 

Interestingly, a website entitled does the numbers to calculate how much a mother is worth. The different roles such as cook, housekeeper, cleaner, teacher, laundry machine operator, driver and others such as psychologist, as listening to those pesky problems can be quite the task. The estimate was that the working mothers should be compensated $67 436 on average in addition to the money earning outside of home. 

However, these statistics do not enter into the mainstream conversation. Instead, the more interesting statistics are about the gift industry of Mother's Day, quite important numbers for retailers across the world. In the United States, the average person spends about $130 on their mother on Mother's Day, while $14.6 billion will be spent on Mother's for sons, fathers and daughters to express their appreciation. Most fathers suggest that Mothers's day is a great day to take over the more female activities in the household, or create an unforgettable experience. Interestingly, almost 100% of fathers state that the small gestures are more important than materialistic items as gifts for Mother's Day. 

Either way, expressing your gratitude towards your mother is not only important on Mother's Day, but on any day, as this writer has learned. The mother of this writer commits to many roles, which includes running New Vision Nutrition , a consultancy on how to improve one's lifestyle through changes in daily eating habits. Most likely, this writer would have never become the person he is without his mother, and would like to express his gratitude for his mom. 

Anyone who has had the blessing of a great mother will most likely raise their glass to a toast of mothers, and realize that having a good mother is truly a blessing.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Alexonomics - Expansion into Video Blogging

Alexonomics will be adding a video component to the blog - above is a sample of what's to come!