Difficult Conversations – Special Edition

Earthquake, Oil Spill &
Dangerous War Secrets

____________

A Short List of What Have Kept Us Awake in 2010,

and What We May Need to Awake From in the New Year.

________

THE TOPS
1) July 26, December 19. The biggest story of the year, the two-punch WikiLeaks revelations about our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the startlingly dispirited diplomacy used to achieve them, had all the limitations of an attack led by drones: all fire, no eyesight.
What was far more revealing was the swift counter punch by the U.S. and its allies in reaction to them. Within days, a case of free speech was turned into a terrorist witch-hunt of the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, the Interpol was brought in and a personal misdeed in Sweden was quickly rolled in for good measure.
The effort to punish the messenger was enough to temporarily derail the essence of the allegations, force Assange to fight expatriation and jail term threats, and land Pvt Bradley Manning, his supposedly source, into an insalubrious location accused of breaking the law.
2) April 22, Earth Day, was the beginning of the worst oil spill in history, right in the backyard of America, the Gulf of Mexico. A full report of what happened, final costs and reimbursements, accountability and punishment, head count of animal and plant species lost, and environmental and economic impact still waits to see the light of the day. So we can move on.
3) January 13, the biggest earthquake to ever hit Haiti seared the impoverished Central American nation. As of today, disease, lack of resources and government corruption continue to increase its toll, at over 200 thousand dead and over two million affected at conservative estimates.
4) August 13, the plight of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian mother of two sentenced to death by stoning, became a cause célèbre of world human and women rights organizations. Still in prison to this day, she’s been paraded innumerable times on Iran’s state-run TV, but remains alive.
5) November 4, President Obama and its Democratic majority in Congress suffered a humiliating defeat and lost the House and several key members. As the new legislative term is about to start, the GOP is expected to mount a coordinated effort to paralyze the government and prevent Obama’s reelection in 2012.

THE NAMES
1) November 14, Aung San Suu Kyi is freed by the Burmese junta, after spending the past 15 out of 21 years in house arrest. She’s expected to continue leading the struggle for political freedom of her countrymen, now citizens of Myanmar.
2) July 5, Jim Bohlen, one of three original founders of Greenpeace, passed away at 84. This New Yorker Navy engineer is credited for creating in the 1960s, in Vancouver, the base tenets for every environmental protection awareness program that came after.
3) October 9, December 8, John Lennon’s 70th birthday and 30th anniversary of his assassination briefly revived the longing of a few generations that grew missing his artistic foresight and political fortitude.
4,5) September 18, December 21 marked 40th years of the passing of Jimi Hendrix, and the 70th birthday of Frank Zappa, respectively, two visionary guitarists and essential bookmark references to the music and mores of the 1960s. John, Jimi & Frank, three of a kind.
6,7) October 23 and 30 marked the birthdays of #1 and #2 greatest soccer players: 3-time World Cup and top scorer Brazilian Pelé’s 70th and Argentine Maradona’s 50th. Apart in the record books and off-field conduct, but equivalent in sheer skill, their combined sports artistry is unlikely to be matched anytime soon.

THE REST
1) August 22 started the ordeal of 33 miners trapped in the bowels of a Chilean mine, that lasted until October 13. Against all odds, in the so-called human story of the year, all were safely rescued, briefly obscuring the terrible conditions the profession endures throughout the world. A month later, 29 others perished within a New Zealand mine, a common occurrence in China and other countries.
2, 3) April 22, November 28 are not exact dates. Mexico‘s misguided multimillion dollar all-out ‘war on drugs’ is arguably helping a vicious escalation of the violence against its people. Sophisticated organized crime cartels greatly benefit from the U.S. market’s insatiable thirst for illegal pot, and high-level government corruption. Rio de Janeiro brought in heavy weaponry and full occupation of some of its biggest and more crime-ridden shantytowns. A work in progress that seems to cater more to Brazil‘s ambitions at a global leadership position rather than to tackle the sources of its social woes. In both cases, these are efforts to which success will be conditioned by a vast number of variables.
4) July 29, a phony controversy was engineered by vast right wing network of interests to turn an inoffensive ecumenical-aimed Islamic cultural center in downtown New York City, into an incendiary focus of anti-Muslim sentiment. Much hyperventilating went into the mix but cooler minds prevailed. The project is at pace to be built and to inspire a healthy interfaith dialogue. No date is set yet to open its doors.
5) June 10, opening of the South African World Cup, the continent’s first and a personal source of fulfillment to one of the world’s truly living legends, Nelson Mandela. Won by Spain for the first time ever, though, it surprisingly lacked any local color, rather revealing a disturbing homogenization trend taking over world-class soccer. It’s ruling organization, FIFA, has since been under fire for prioritizing the game’s profit-making potential over essential fundaments such as sportsmanship and referring.

THE BIG FAT LIE
– “A Goverment Takeover of Health Care” was chosen by PolitiFact.com as the lie of the year. The respected but not controversy free Website determined that Republican spent 2010 insisting President Obama’s plan to overhaul the U.S. health care system was equivalent to a coup. It wasn’t, as they thoroughly proved, but the effort to disprove the false claim took a heavy toll on the president’s credibility and political base unity.

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