Millennial Intel

Japan Seems Ready To Do Anything In Order To Strengthen Ties With The US

The Trans-Pacific Partnership was bashed in the 2016 elections by both Democrats and Republicans.

It was portrayed in the campaign as another “bad” trade deal that would cost our country decent jobs and lower wages.

It was no surprise when President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the TPP in his fourth day of office and suggested focusing on more bilateral trade agreements.

Whether or not Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tried to convince Trump in November to stay in the TPP during their first meeting, it is apparent he has changed his tune now.

Abe seemed optimistic about replacing the TPP with investments from Japan in America’s infrastructure, suggesting a railway that uses their high-speed technology and increased bilateral trade during a trip to the US.

Sounds too good to be true?

The Japanese government has already invested two million in a maglev line project that would connect Baltimore, Maryland to Washington and expects the forty-mile line to open in a decade at an estimated cost of ten billion, with them covering much of the cost.

Many young Americans may be unfamiliar with this meeting, but as our generation starts to shape the public opinion of the time, it is critical that attention is paid to East Asia, as well as other parts of the world.

A 2015 survey by Pew Research Center found that seventy-three percent of Americans had never heard of the Japanese Prime Minister, who has served since 2012.

I asked Dr. William Boettcher in the Political Science Department at North Carolina State University why our relationship to Japan should matter to the incoming generation.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meeting with American Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Photo Credit: Jim Mattis/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

“Japan is the chief U.S. ally in East Asia (with South Korea a close second) and is a key contributor to stability in this very important region,” Boettcher told me. “Japan hosts significant deployments of American troops and is also our fourth-largest trading partner.”

While future relations seem unclear and the two countries have had a rocky history, for the past seventy-some years the relationship has been deeply rooted in mutual trust.

This trust has its beginnings in the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, signed in 1960.

The treaty has been strengthened over time with the US Japan Economic Harmonization Initiative in November of 2010 and the release of the revised U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines in 2015.

According to the State Department, the latter allowed for expanded forms of security-oriented cooperation, which brings us to the uniqueness of our relationship with Japan.

Due to Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution, the county cannot enter into war and can only use their forces in matters of self-defense.

As Japan’s only treaty partner, we are committed to protecting it with the presence of our forces.

The 2016 Index of Military Strength stated that we currently maintain “38,000 military personnel and another 5,000 Department of Defense civilian employees in Japan under the rubric of U.S. Forces Japan (USFJ).”

Japan offsets some of the cost by providing around two billion annually, but they have been pressured in recent years to provide more and increase their own military.

This was especially expressed by Trump during his campaign as he espoused that our allies must give a little more for relationships to continue.

Photo Credit: Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Japan has loosened some of their restrictions on defense and arms sales in recent years, and they can do more.

The reason a strengthened relationship with the U.S. is so important: China and North Korea.

While President Obama practiced “strategic patience” with North Korea, the rogue regime practiced more missile tests and failed to return to any negotiations.

The long term goal of rejoining families and reinstituting democracy in the North will be a long way off if it is continued to be put on the back burner for issues in the Middle East (an important lesson for President Trump).

Read More: Why This Vietnamese Student Studying In The US Still Loves America Despite Trump’s Hate.

Both the United States and South Korea support the policy of reunification, but a policy of constructive engagement from the U.S. may prove to be more effective.

Japan’s formidable neighbor, China, has not been sanctioned for facilitating North Korean prohibited behavior and does not seem to share concern for the safety of our allies in East Asia.

To move toward the reunification of Korea, it stands to reason that our presence in East Asia should not be depleted, but enlarged.

How does this support President Trump’s claims that our allies need to do more?

Japan can do more and it appears that now that they have been pressured, Prime Minister Abe is rising to the occasion.

The first foreign leader to jump on a plane and meet with our new president, this is a man who is interested in not only dinner, but chocolate and roses too.

Japan has asserted its dominance in East Asia in recent years, meaning it has a dog in the fight.

In 2010 China challenged Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, and the Obama Administration responded by saying that the islands were protected under the security treaty between the United States and Japan.

Then the Japanese central government furthered tensions with China by purchasing three new islands in 2012.

While we must uphold our end of the security treaty, in the coming years Japan must strengthen the Japanese Coast Guard, increase defense expenditures so as to strengthen the Self-Defense Forces, reinforce the National Security Council, and alter its interpretation of the right to collective self-defense.

The Economist maintains that some of the money to improve American infrastructure can come from Japan’s $1.2 trillion public-pension fund, the world’s largest, so perhaps this can also support their own needs to improve and expand defense.

We can increase our militaristic and economic ties with Japan as long as they are willing to do the same.

While in the past public opposition to altering the Japanese constitution would have made it difficult, the increasing buildup of the Chinese military and Japan’s desire to work with the U.S. has changed the public’s outlook.

These short-term changes are now possible to work toward our common long-term goals of standing up to North Korea and China.

It looks like this alliance might make for a sweet relationship after all.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Tibet Is Actually Larger Than France. Sorry For Blowing Your Mind

By David J Castello

Few countries in the world evoke the mystique of Tibet.

Nicknamed the “Roof of the World” (it shares Mount Everest with Nepal), most people simply know it as the former home of the Dalai Lama.

For centuries, Tibet heavily restricted outsiders and it wasn’t until 1924 that the first European woman, Belgian–French explorer Alexandra David-Néel, visited the capital, Lhasa. Let’s start with the basics:
1. The Size of Tibet – Many believe that Tibet is a small country like neighboring Nepal or Bhutan.

Actually, Tibet is huge.

The Traditional Tibet (U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo provinces) is 965,000 square miles.

This is over four times larger than France and a whopping 25% of the land mass of China, which is a good reason why the Communist Chinese invaded Tibet on October 6, 1950 only ten months after winning the Chinese Civil War and declaring the People’s Republic of China.

Since 1965, China recognizes only the much smaller Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) which comprises U-Tsang and the western area of Kham (474,300 sq. mi).

This Tibet is autonomous in name only because it is strictly governed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Furthermore, China has steadily relocated Chinese into Tibet and there are now more Chinese (7.5 million) in Tibet than Tibetans (6 million).

This does not bode well for Tibetans.

The Tibetan flag and national anthem are banned and they can be imprisoned simply for possessing an image of the Dalai Lama.

Over a million Tibetans have been killed and 6,000 monasteries destroyed since the Chinese invaded their country.

2. Tibet’s Altitude – Tibet is the highest country on Earth with an average elevation of 13,000 feet.

Altitude sickness is more prevalent here than anywhere else on the planet. If you visit Tibet, it’s recommended you give yourself at least 3-5 days of complete rest for your body to complete acute acclimatization or you can pay a heavy price.

The most common type of altitude sickness, Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) occurs at elevations above 7,500 feet.

The two fatal varieties, High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), can occur at 12,500 feet.

Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The elevation in Lhasa is 12,000 feet and 16,732 feet at Rongbuk Monastery.

On a personal note, I grew up surfing in South Florida and thought skiing in Mammoth, California (base elevation 8,000 feet) would be a cinch.

I jumped right in and was having a blast until I suddenly became dizzy and couldn’t get my bearings.

Ten minutes later, I was gasping for breath as attendants sledded me down the mountain like a deer carcass strapped to the hood of an F-150.

3. The Dalai Lama  – The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the fourteenth Dalai Lama and the spiritual leader of the Yellow Hat Tibetan Buddhists.

The first Dalai Lama was born in 1391 and each succeeding Dalai Lama is believed to be the reincarnation of his predecessor.

Tenzin Gyatso was chosen when, at the age of two in 1937, he correctly selected all items presented to him that had belonged to the recently deceased thirteenth Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.

However, the Dalai Lama today believes his lineage is much older and that he is the seventy-fourth reincarnation that can be traced back to a Brahman boy who was given a crystal rosary by Buddha himself (567 BC- 484 BC).

Many Tibetans remain steadfastly loyal to the Dalai Lama and hold him in extremely high reverence which is a good reason why the Chinese won’t be stamping his passport anytime soon.

4. Longevity and The Quest for Immortality – Life extension has never been as popular as it is today.

In 2015, Google’s Sergey Brin announced that he was investing billions of dollars into his Project Calico, Google’s attempt to “cure death.”

In 1696, a monastic medical school was built upon the summit of Chakpori Hill in Lhasa.

In 1959, the Chinese destroyed it with artillery during the Tibetan Uprising claiming the Tibetans had posted a couple of cannons outside the school.

Some of the substances taught at Chakpori Hill reportedly had the ability to extend mortality far beyond that of the average human life span and at least two of them are in popular usage today.

Himalayan dried goji berries are readily available in health food stores and shopping chains such as Trader Joes and Whole Foods.

Li Qing Yuen subsisted mostly upon them (he also consumed ginseng, licorice root and gotu kola) and claimed that he was 267 years old when he died in 1930.

Shilajit is an ancient tar-like substance of vegetable origin that oozes from the rocks in the mountains of Tibet.

It has been reported to contain at least 85 minerals in ionic form, as well as triterpenes, humic acid and fulvic acid.

The ancient Vedic Hindu text, the Charaka Samhita (200 BC), claims there is no disease that cannot be cured by Shilajit.

5. The Sky Burial – On the flip side of immortality is death and the Tibetans have a unique method for dealing with the deceased.

The Sky Burial or Jhator was first mentioned in the 12th century Tibetan Book of the Dead. The ground in Tibet is too hard for traditional burial (solid rock or permafrost is only inches below the surface) and most of the country lies about the tree-line making traditional burial expensive and impractical.

Beginning at dawn, rogyapas (body-breakers) hack the deceased to pieces and then use rocks to pound the flesh and bones into a paste with tsampa (barley flour mixed with tea and yak butter) before lighting incense to summon hordes of giant Griffin vultures who swoop in to feast.

The immediate family may be present, but usually during a nighttime ceremony that does not include a view of watching their beloved reduced to mush.

Tibetan Buddhists believe the corpse is nothing but an empty vessel devoid of spirit and giving sustenance back to nature in this manner is an act of generosity that is essential to their beliefs.

The practice is in decline due to restrictions in urban areas and the diminishing number of Griffin vultures in Tibet.

David J Castello is the author of The Diary of an Immortal (1945-1959)

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Chelsea Manning Is Missing

According to multiple media reports, supporters of Chelsea Manning have been unable to reach her for six days.

She is currently serving time at the Fort Leavenworth military correctional facility and attempted suicide earlier in the year.

She has missed numerous previously scheduled calls with supporters and her attorney has been unable to get additional information about her whereabouts.

She was sentenced to 14 days in solitary confinement for the attempted suicide. It is not clear whether she began to serve the sentence or not.

Manning is serving a 35 year prison sentence for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks while on active duty.

This is a developing story. Stay with RISE NEWS for more as we get it. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Street Artists From Around The World Are Celebrating Peace Day In An Awesome Way

Today, Sept. 21 marks International Peace Day. And while it may be hard to imagine a less peaceful time in recent global history, it is still important to mark the day as a moment for hope.

To celebrate the day, scores of street artists from around the world have painted beautiful murals in their home countries.

The mural paintings are being organized by the non-profit International Alert.

Murals are being painted in the following places:

Berdyansk, Ukraine

Beirut, Lebanon

Davao City, Philippines

Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

London, UK (at House of Vans, Waterloo)

Kampala, Uganda

Some other pics from around the world:

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Peace Day was also marked by the United Nations Secretary General.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Photo Credits: International Alert

Can This 39 Year Old Idealist Save France From A Far Right Future?

Update: 2/6/2017

By Nate Nkumbu

Election Season is upon us here in the United States but across the Atlantic, France is also getting ready for a very important election that could have global implications.

With a whole range of issues that are in the voter’s mind from national security to the economy, this election season will prove to be one that could shape France’s future at home and abroad.

After a wave of terrorist attacks that have plagued the country in recent years and a meddling economy that has failed to take off, many in France are willing to turn to the far right of the political spectrum for salvation and safety.

But before going into too much detail, let’s do a little overview of how the French political system actually works.

The country is led by a President, who is elected every five years.

France uses a two round system to elect its president so the top two finishers in the first round of voting then face off in a run off election two weeks later.

The next election is scheduled to be held on April 23, 2017 with the second round scheduled for May 7.

Many experts believe that incumbent Socialist President Francois Hollande could be in real trouble if he does decide to run for reelection.

“The Socialist party, which Hollande is member of doesn’t have much love for him like the rest of the France because he’s failed on number of things, mostly the economy as France is still struggling,” William R. Keylor, a Professor at Boston University who specializes in International Relations and is expert on US and French politics said to RISE NEWS.

According to Keylor, Hollande’s mismanagement of the economy has seen his approval rating drop to as low as 10%.

The professor added that because of Hollande’s unpopularity, many of the political parties in France see an opportunity to challenge his Presidency.

One of those parties is led by a rising star in French politics by the Name of Emmanuel Macron, the 38-year-old who Hollande had as his finance minister has become the rising star of French intellectuals who wish for a more moderate future.

His brand of politics, and his campaign (which is called “En Marche!”, or On Our Way) are marked with a form of optimism not unlike Canadian Prime minister Justin Trudeau.

But Macron is not the only challenger in the election.

The Republicans (the center-right political party) will hold a primary in the fall that is being hotly contested by Former President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Prime Minister Alain Juppé.

There is also a far right party that is actually leading current opinion polls in the election- the National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, a member of the European Parliament.

Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen is a rabid racist who founded the National Front as a reactionary force meant to inform more traditional ideas of how French society should be run.

Keylor suggest that on the international scene, Sarkozy, Hollande, and Macron would continue the international presences that France has with NATO and the European Union, but under Le Pen, France’s international presences would change drastically.

 Photo Credit: Ecole polytechnique Université Paris-Saclay/ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

A man on the move. Macron (second from right) walks with a group of other government ministers at a event at a French college in late 2015. Photo Credit: Ecole polytechnique Université Paris-Saclay/ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

“Under both the Socialist and Republicans, France would continue their obligations to the Nato and the EU being charter members and one the more influential nations but under Le Pen, you would see France renege on the obligation” Keylor said.“Le Pen’s policy, much like Trump’s in America is all about making France first. Under her, you would see France retreat inwards”

With the Socialists discredited under Hollande’s poor economic management and weakness in dealing with terrorist threats, there is a real chance that France will have to choose from the right and the far right in the Presidential run-off election.

Why does that matter?

Well just look at the recent “burkini” controversy.

The nation has been gripped in debate over whether women should be allowed to wear a form of the Islamic covering known as a “burqa” on the beach. The issue came to a head when one beach community banned the outfit and forced women to remove it while on the beach.

The controversy has angered human rights campaigners and progressives the world over, but it is not clear-cut in France.

Emmanuel Macron (third from left) at a consumer tech conference in 2014. Photo Credit OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Emmanuel Macron (third from left) at a consumer tech conference in 2014. Photo Credit OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Le Pen and Sarkozy support making the ban a national one while Juppé and Macron want to relax the ban.

Macron, who speaks English and is married to his former high school teacher who is over 20 years his senior also wants to reform the French economy and is willing to go after some of its sacred cows, like the 35 hour workweek.

He is not a Socialist and has angered many labor unions due to his more reform minded view of the world, but he may be France’s only hope to prevent the country from plunging into a far right reality.

A 38 year old may be the man France needs in this time of great need.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Why Turkey Should Be Removed From NATO

Read the companion piece to this one: Kicking Turkey Out Of NATO Would Be A Massive Mistake

Whatever strategic value that Turkey may have to the United States and the rest of NATO can be considered as good as null and void in light of a series of events that have taken place over the last five years.

During this time period, the world has seen Turkey, under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, slowly morph from a beacon of democracy in the Middle East to a rogue state.

Ever since Syria descended into civil war in 2011, Erdogan has made it very clear that he wishes to see anti-government forces oust longtime Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

He has made Turkey into a sponsor of these rebel groups.

On multiple occasions, it has been demonstrated that these groups are willing to make deals with and, at times, openly ally with jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, both which have vowed to destroy America and attacked American civilians on American soil.

By logic, it is then safe to state that Erdogan has contributed at least indirectly that Turkey has played a role in the rise of ISIS.

The rise of ISIS and other jihadi groups in Syria has exacerbated and increased the stakes of the conflict there, to the point where a proxy war now rages between the US, Britain, France, Turkey, and the Arab monarchies on one side; and with Russia, Iran, and Iraq on the other.

It has also contributed a major role in the refugee crisis that is currently plaguing Europe and Syria’s neighbors.

Photo Credit: Charles Dunst/ RISE NEWS

Photo Credit: Charles Dunst/ RISE NEWS

So, how has Turkey taken advantage of this crisis, which it is partially responsible for? Let’s start with the proxy war first.

Turkey has engaged in multiple hostile acts against its opponents in this proxy cold war that could have turned it into a hot war.

First, in the most well-known such incident, it shot down a Russian plane conducting missions over Syria after it reportedly crossed over Turkish territory for seventeen seconds.

Second, it has threatened to invade Syria in order to protect ethnic Turkmen and over clashes between Turkish forces and Syrian Kurdish militias.

Turkey has also allegedly sent troops into Iraq without the permission of its government as the Syrian crisis spills over into it.

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Regarding the refugee crisis, Turkey has indicated its willingness to use it as an excuse to push other agendas.

It has made much more trivial issues ranging from travel visas to domestic terrorism laws into potential spoilers in negotiations on the control of migration flows into Europe.

This, without doubt, will be seen by those who view the migration crisis as a national security risk, as blackmail that states, “Do what we say or there will be terrorist attacks.”

In addition to the Turkish role in the developments of the Syrian and migration crises, Turkey has also shown open contempt for democracy and human rights, principles which are promoted (at least in word) by NATO.

Read More: 10 Days In Turkey: An American Student Comes Face To Face With The Islamic Crisis Of Modernity

On its own soil, people are arrested on a regular basis for “insulting the president.”

Protests and dissenting newspapers are subjected to violent crackdowns.

President Erdogan has been accused of inciting violence against pro-Kurdish (a minority ethnic group that resides in the southwest of the country, as well as in parts of Syria, Iraq, and Iran) political parties.

As of 2013, Turkey has imprisoned more journalists than any other country.

And finally, Erdogan has succeeded in forcing the ouster of the Prime Minister, former political ally Ahmet Davutoglu, as part of his attempts to increase the powers of the President, whose role has traditionally been ceremonial.

Erdogan’s attempts to curb democracy are not limited to his home country.

He has played a role in the disruption of democratic order in other countries as well.

Photo Credit: Charles Dunst/ RISE NEWS

Photo Credit: Charles Dunst/ RISE NEWS

For example, he has contributed to the curbing of free speech in Germany by demanding that a satirical poem about him written by German comedian Jan Böhmermann be banned under a law that forbids the insulting of foreign heads of state, despite the fact that Erdogan was not even on German soil at the time the poem was broadcast on a local television station.

A German court has partially complied, ruling that 18 of the 24 line in the poem are unacceptable and cannot be read in public, on pain of imprisonment or a fine.

In addition, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has been caught attempting to coerce Turkish organizations in the Netherlands to report on insults against Erdogan on Dutch soil.

And then, there is Erdogan’s security detail, which seems to have the mentality that it is above the laws of other countries, as demonstrated by a series of violent incidents with civilians, journalists, other security details, and even law enforcement when visiting countries such as the United States, Belgium, and Ecuador.

Turkey, under the leadership of Recep Erdogan, has demonstrated through its recent actions the following:

  • It isn’t willing to take the war on terrorism seriously.
  • It is willing to get into bed with the enemies of its NATO allies.
  • It is willing to cause unnecessary conflicts that could drag in NATO allies in order to achieve its individual foreign policy goals.
  • It is willing to put politics over the national security of its NATO allies.
  • It isn’t willing to promote democracy
  • It is willing to curb democracy, both at home and abroad.
  • It is willing to cause disorder on the soil of its NATO allies to prove a point.

Are these the characteristics of an ally, much less a NATO ally? These sound more like the characteristics of a rogue state. Until Turkey cleans up its act, it must be treated as such, and certain actions, including an exclusion from NATO, are welcome.

Read the companion piece to this one: Kicking Turkey Out Of NATO Would Be A Massive Mistake

Do you with agree with this view? Give us your take in the comments below. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Charles Dunst/ RISE NEWS

That Time America Went To War Over Bananas

By Nate Nkumbu

Often you look at a banana and you see a table item or a common breakfast food. But many people wouldn’t believe that the fruit holds a dark history in Latin America and that the United States government actually supported dictators for this peel-able food.

The Banana Wars were period between 1898 and 1934 were the U.S heavily intervened in Latin American politics.

Using the legacy of the Monroe doctrine, the U.S invaded countries like Cuba, Haiti, Panama, Colombia, and Honduras to protect the Banana plantations and other investments made in the countries according to Jose Cruz, Director of Research for the Kimberley Green Latin American and Caribbean center at Florida International University.

Cruz said in an interview with RISE NEWS that the period saw many in Latin America view the United States as occupying forces as opposed to being just a neighbor up north.

The Monroe doctrine help to establish America’s dominance in Latin America but in 1904, in an addition to the long standing US posture of dominating influence in the Western Hemisphere, President Theodore Roosevelt upped the ante.

In the Roosevelt Corollary, TR gave the U.S the ammo it needed to justify its intervention in Central and South America by arguing that America shouldn’t just prevent European control in the hemisphere, but that it should also use military force to further American interests there.

A worker offloading bananas in Mobile, Alabama in 1937. Photo Credit: C. Thomas Anderson/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

A worker offloading bananas in Mobile, Alabama in 1937. Photo Credit: C. Thomas Anderson/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Cruz said that the most blatant case during the banana wars was the U.S intervening in Honduras seven times between 1903 and 1925.

He said that companies like United Fruit which had owned plantations in Honduras would call on the U.S Marines to deal with political insurrections and that the local elite were supportive of the actions.

So yes. American Marines were basically the private police force of American fruit companies. Just let that sink in for a second and try not to laugh.

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“The local elite in Honduras got paid or received payments from companies like United Fruit to protect their plantations,” Cruz said. “In some places, the people working on the plantations were able to unionize thanks in part to some of the United Fruit workers coming from America helping them, but this was in small amounts.”

Photo Credit: AMISOM Public Information/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: AMISOM Public Information/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Cruz said that United Fruit had often put down worker’s strikes with violence. One notable case was the Banana Massacre of 1928 where Colombian workers for the company were killed following strikes demanding better working conditions.

Cruz said that the effect of the Banana Massacre is still felt today in places like Colombia.

“Just 10 years ago, Chiquita Bananas was accused of hiring paramilitary troops to put down strikes in their plantations in Colombia, likewise other corporations like Coca Cola,” Cruz said. “It isn’t rare today for actions like this to happen, but during the Banana Wars, it was quite common.” 

WATCH: Documentary clip about the Banana Wars. 

Know a weird history story that we should look into? Send us a tip to [email protected] 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: elycefeliz/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Fighterjocks From Portland Are In Finland Right Now, Spooking The Russians

Some American flyboys are in Finland this month, in an effort to remind Russian President Vladimir Putin where his country’s borders really are.

The 123rd Fighter Squadron, based out of Portland, Oregon, is participating in exercises in Finland over the course of this month.

The F-15Cs of the 123rd will be assisting in improving the readiness of the Finnish Air Force, who has seen an increase in its necessity due to an increase in Russian airspace violations of sovereign airspace.

Finland is not a member of NATO, but has been a participant in the Partnership for Peace program, as well as assisting in ISAF operations in Afghanistan, and participating in NATO exercises, as demonstrated below.

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has solidified North American and European security interests to a degree that may even exceed that of the height of the Cold War.

This in turn has lead to an interest among some to extend the NATO security umbrella.

This has led most recently to Montenegro’s invitation to the alliance, and some suggestions that Sweden and Finland consider alliance membership.

Both Sweden and Finland have historically followed a policy of neutrality, but this has not been entirely adhered to.

Sweden has had intelligence sharing agreements with NATO states since 1954, as well as relying on NATO capabilities in the event of war against the Soviet Union, and in more recent times against simulated Russian airstrikes.

Both countries participate in NATO exercises, and operations, as well as having strong relations with both Denmark and Norway; both founding members of the Atlantic Alliance.

However, the two countries are not equally open to formally joining the alliance.

The Swedish public has rapidly shifted in favor of NATO membership, with 41% in favor, 39% opposed, and 20% undecided as of late 2015.  While Finnish support for NATO membership is at a historical high, only 27% support membership.

This is why the American deployment of aircraft into non ally Finland is such a strong signal.

 The Americans may be showing a preview of the kind of commitment they would offer if Finland joined NATO.

By creating stronger military and diplomatic ties with Finland through interactions between the 123rd with Finnish units, and other NATO-Finland interactions, the case for affiliation becomes more concrete.

That does not make the Portland based unit’s sale easy.

Greater affiliation with the EU and NATO has historically lead to an increase in likelihood for Russian counter actions, ala the 2008 Russia-Georgia War, and the two year old ongoing fiasco in Ukraine.

It is essentially out of the question that Finland join without Sweden, or vice versa. In addition to the two countries having strong historical ties, as well as sharing a highly convenient border to ferry troops and material over in the event of Russian intervention into Finland, while Sweden joining with Finland might trigger a response against neutral Finland, in order to guarantee buffer space against the perceived NATO threat.

The Oregon Air National Guard is thus pulling double duty in appealing to both the remaining non aligned Scandinavian countries, as well as improving Finland’s unilateral readiness.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Photo Credit: cryogenic666/Flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

Africa’s First Billion Dollar Start Up Is A Bet On The Rise Of The Continent’s Middle Class. But Is It A Smart Bet?

For decades, the narrative around African business has been pretty negative. But things are changing as demonstrated by the recent achievement by the Africa Internet Group– as it became the first ever African based “Unicorn” start up company.

Africa Internet Group just received an $85 million investment, valuing the company at over $1 billion, and making it a “Unicorn”.

AIG is essentially Silicon Valley, but all packed into one business.

They invest in and help manage over 30 African companies like Easy Taxi, Jumia, and Lamudi, which mimic the Uber’s, Amazon’s, and Zillow’s of the world.

Glassdoor reviews from former employees of AIG give it a 3.2 rating out of 5 with 21 reviews. The pros largely coalesced around the work: always busy and challenging.

The cons all focused on the same issues surrounding management, with every negative review either highlighting a lack of communication or unrealistic expectations for their subordinates.

These complaints about management seemed to be shared by ownership, as last December, the company began to lay off upper level staff left and right, with one of its largest companies, Jumia, firing over 300 workers in Nigeria, its largest market.

It is not unusual for one startup to go through upheaval like this, but when many companies all operating under the same umbrella go through the same issues, it is a bit worrisome.

However, AXA and Orange would not have invested in AIG at the valuation they did unless it was satisfied with its executive team, so one would think that this massive shakeup is largely a good thing for the company.

Given the timing of the overhaul and the subsequent transaction, this management purge was most likely a contingency for these large firms’ financing, because ultimately, they are not investing in AIG, but in the rising African middle class.

The common theme amongst AIG’s portfolio is e-commerce, as they have laid the foundation of their company on the emerging proletariat.

The size and the economic maturity of the middle class is the subject of fierce debate, as companies like Nestle serve as cautionary tales; their billion dollar expansion hit a rut and was forced to scale back its African workforce by 15% once returns proved to be smaller than expected.

WATCH: Inside a Africa Internet Group Office in Lagos, Nigeria. 

Much of the investment in Africa has been based around the notion that one third of Africans are “middle class,” which emerged from a 2011 paper from the African Development Bank Group which stated that the middle class had tripled over the last 30 years.

However, the AfDB defined it as Africans living off of $2 to $20 in purchasing power per day, with it divided into three separate tiers which further muddied the certainty surrounding the definition of “middle class.”

Standard Bank released a study last September that looked at 11 African countries which account for over half the continent’s GDP, and found the size of their middle class to be 15 million people, or about 300 million less than AfDB estimated for the entire continent.

The middle class of the largest African country by GDP, Nigeria, is estimated at 11%, with 86% of all Africans reportedly falling under “low income.”

The Pew Research Center provides extra support to this assertion as they estimate that just 6% of Africans qualify as “middle class,” which they define as living off of $10 to $20 per day.

90% of Africans are estimated to still live off of less than $10 per day according to Pew.

However, even though the data seems to hint that investors may be too bullish, it does not mean that they should reverse course and become bearish on the many different African economies.

Capital is still flowing into the continent, as foreign direct investment is up over 12% since 2008.

Additionally, some of the struggles companies like Nestle experienced could be due more to cultural misunderstandings than a lack of disposable income across Africa.

“There was no presumption [from the AfDB] that this middle class would exhibit Western modes in terms of consumption of food formula for middle-class babies [Nestlé] nor for whisky [Diaego],” Kayizzi-Mugerwa, one of the chief economists for the AfDB said. “In the latter case, Africans have always had a partiality for beer − irrespective of class – and the beer companies are doing roaring business.”

Many African countries are still dealing with structural issues that go back centuries, as Egypt’s inflation is 210th in the world due to the instability that has arisen over the last 5 years.

Nigeria needs to modernize its workforce as 70% work in agriculture, yet farming accounts for just 20% of its GDP.

South Africa, which remains the model for many African countries, has 66% of its workforce comprising the services industry, which accounts for 67.4% of its GDP, yet the rest of the continent’s labor pool is much closer to Nigeria than its most modernized nation at its southernmost tip.

The historic investment in Africa Internet Group must be seen as a larger investment in Africa as a whole, because without a modernized Africa, the e-commerce that AIG provides would have no market for buyers or sellers.

Africa is still an emerging economy, but it has shed many of the 3rd world caricatures that the West has forced upon it over the years, with Sacha Poignonnec, CEO of Africa Internet Group providing a mission statement for the company that could be construed as one for the entire continent as well:

“We want to be profitable but we are very long-term oriented. Amazon is a great model to look at. They have a great valuation, they have a great customer base. Everyone one is confident that Amazon has a great future but they are still yet to make money.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us

Five Essential Steps For Millennials To Tackle Their Taxes

By Maria C. Alonso, Bank of America Miami Market Manager

Maria Alonso

The author. Submitted Photo.

Filing taxes. It’s unavoidable and intimidating, especially for those less experienced in doing it. In fact, 80 percent of millennials worry about making a mistake, according to a new survey by NerdWallet.

With April 15 less than a month away, time is of the essence. If you are struggling with how to get started take a look at these five steps to help you get you on the right track.

  1. Know your tax bracket

Each bracket of your income is taxed at a different rate. As you make more money, a higher percentage may be owed in taxes.

Check out this infographic on decoding your tax bracket to see how it works.

  1. Know your timeline

The regular tax return filing deadline is April 15. In general, experts recommend filing tax returns earlier rather than later. The earlier you file, the better your chances of avoiding tax-related identity theft, a crime that’s on the rise. Plus, if you’re owed a refund, you will get it sooner.

Additional tip: If you think you need extra time, you can file an extension giving you until October 15. But, if you owe the government money, you still need to pay your estimated taxes in full by April 15 to avoid penalties and interest.

  1. Get familiar with the terms and paperwork

Check out this guide to key tax terms, then start collecting all of the essential information you’ll need, including:

  • W-2s: Sometime in January or February, you should have received a W-2 form from your employer(s). With information on your wages, tips and tax withholdings, this form may contain much of what you need to complete the bulk of your tax return. Watch this video on the anatomy of a W-2 to gain a better understanding of what the form includes.
  • 1099s: If you earned interest on a savings account or you have income from an investment account, you should also have received a 1099 form from your bank or your broker showing just how much interest, dividends, or capital gains or losses your account has accrued over the past year.

The three main personal income tax forms are the 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ. The simplest of these and a good option if you have a fairly simple financial picture is the 1040EZ. The 1040 and 1040A forms are a bit more complex but offer additional tax credit options if you qualify. Refer to this simple IRS guide to choose and download the right form for you. Watch this video to find out if the 1040EZ form is right for you.

  1. Decide how to file

The easiest way to prepare and file your tax return (and to process your refund) is through IRS e-file. E-filing is easily available for those who file on their own or use online programs or tax professionals to prepare their returns. If your adjusted gross income is $60,000 or less, you may be eligible for free online tax-filing services.

  1. Plan year-round

Whether you’re filing independently or working with a tax professional, staying on top of related paperwork all year long will make your life easier during tax season. If you plan to itemize deductions, you probably want to keep receipts for things like charitable donations, job expenses and medical bills. You should keep your paperwork after you file, too. The IRS recommends keeping records for three years.

Also, having a sense of which credits and deductions you may be eligible for can help you save the proper documentation all year and avoid a last-minute scramble. Here are a few to consider: saver’s credit, student loan interest, moving expenses, job search expenses, charitable deductions, freelance expenses, and homeowner’s benefits.

Additional tip: If you think you may qualify for additional credits or deductions, check the IRS website.

Maria C. Alonso is the Miami Market Manager for Bank of America. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Cover Photo Credit: Martha Soukup/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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