What’s Going On? A Brief Briefing on The News

When I turned twenty-seven, I realized I had spent the last ten years talking, worrying, or thinking about myself in one way or another. Waking up from this decade long inspection of my own navel alerted me to the presence of a rather buzzing world around me, which I was welcome to participate in, and might want to get to know a little better.

I had a micro version of this happen this morning. I realized that for the past two weeks I have nary had a thought, worry, question, or conversation that doesn’t in some way stem from/lead back to my own concerns for what the hell I’m doing with myself right now. This morning,  as I cut up apples and baby carrots for my pups’ breakfast, I flipped on the television and thought about the day ahead of me, and my involvement in it. As Morning Joe droned on in the background about the government using drones against US citizens, I realized that I have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. Is this a thing? Should I shutter my windows? What other mayhem has been happening over the last two weeks while I’ve been stumbling around in a solopsistic stupor?

I quickly packed my bag, put on two coats to barricade myself against the sharp winds hissing outside, and sped-walked to the Chapterhouse. Opening my laptop with the first (of what is likely to be seven) coffee of the day by my side, I took a deep breath and  decided it was time to reorient myself with the world, and get some kind of rundown of the headlines – in particular, this drone business.

I decided to first go to Google News, The BBC, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, to see what headlines would pop out at me, and if there were any surprises. And boy, were there!

Here are the headlines/links that made me say “what??“:

  1. U.S. has secret drone base in Saudi Arabia
  2. Drone Strikes’ Dangers to Get Rare Moment in Public Eye
  3. Post office to end Saturday mail service
  4. French troops kill ‘hundreds’ of Islamist fighters in Mali
  5. Boy Scouts are expected to address gay ban
  6. Obama Selects REI Executive to Lead Interior Department

JP-BRENNAN-1-articleLargeFor those of you whose curiosity is piqued, but may not have the time to read all of the above articles, here is a quick synopsis for each:

1. Secret Drone Base/Drones Kill Americans:

Obama is trying to appoint John Brennan to be the CIA Director. As Brennan’s senate hearing approaches, a white paper has been made public that outlines the U.S. government’s policy  (created by Brennan) around using drones to kill Americans abroad – namely, that our government can legally kill any American who is a high up in Al Qaeda, an affiliate, or who poses an imminent threat – which can be very broadly interpreted. Additionally, it has made known the secret bases we have in Saudia Arabia, where these drone attacks originate. Drones have killed at least four American citizens  in Yemen – including a 16 year old son of a suspected Al Qaeda operative – and more than 3,000 militia and civilians.

2. Drones May Do More Harm Than Good: 

Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, a Yemeni father of five, gave a speech in his small town against Al Qaeda; a few days later, speaking to Al Qaeda militants who had heard of his denouncement, in an effort to get them to loosen their stranglehold on his town, an American drone rained on the group huddled under a tree and killed them all. Saleem Hussein, a 21 year old Yemeni college student, and his teacher Ali Ali Nasser were later killed by a drone as they drove home from school; family members found their eyeballs in piles of rubble, but the rest of their faces and bodies were blown into tiny pieces by the drones. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face; the program that’s supposed to keep Americans safe is doing a lot of work to make us despised in the communities we’re most worried about. Brennan is facing scrutiny for the drone program he’s designed, but he stands behind it. However, most agree that the raining of drones on civilians and military alike engenders some feelings of distaste/lava-hot hatred for the US within Yemeni communities.

3. US Post Office Shriveling Up:

By August, only packages will be delivered on Saturdays – no more weekend mail. The Post Office lost almost $16 billion last year, has already reached its borrowing limit, and has defaulted twice on payments to the government. They need cash, and fast; we’ll see whether this manages to do the trick.

4. What The Hell Is Going On In Mali?

Islamist extremists had control over the north of Mali, where they had banned music, drinking, smoking, & sports; had bombed historic landmarks; and were preparing to potentially make the area into an Al Qaeda playground. Last month, the government of Mali asked France to come in and launch an attack against these militants, who have consequently fled into the desert. Now these cities and their surrounding areas are controlled by French troops. Mali is of particular importance due to its huge size (it’s twice the size of France) and its terribly weak government, which led to its  becoming the largest territory in the world to be controlled by Islamic extremists. Additionally, Mali’s seven neighboring countries are teetering on the edge of Islamist extremism and facing their own struggles with militants. The international community would like to groom Mali – a country that is relatively progressive in its dealings with women and its emphasis on education, as well as being the host of many holy sites – into being the beacon of 21st century Islam – but this breakout of instability first needs to be quelled.

5. Boy Scouts Cost-Benefit Analysis: “Our Core Values” vs. Entering 20th Century/Being Good People?:

A decade ago, the Supreme Court decided the Boy Scouts were allowed to exclude gays as leaders and members. Approximately 70% of Scout troops are sponsored by churches – most prominently The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – who may pull out of scouting if the ban is lifted. However, membership in boy scout troops is down 19% in the last ten years, so they might want to consider entering this, or perhaps even the last, century. On the upside, two major board members, as well as President Obama, are all vocally on the side of lifting the ban. They should make a announcement today.

6. Potential New Interior Deparmtment Secretary:

Sally Jewell, the CEO of REI (the outdoorsy sporting company) is being appointed to lead the Interior Department by President Obama. This position would involve her overseeing millions of public acres of land. Jewell has been a banker, an oil company official, and has now grown REI to over $2 billion a year. She is a fervent conversationist and outdoorsy lady. There is pressure from Democrats to preseve public lands, and pressure from Republicans to make it easier to lease those lands for oil & gas procurement; Jewell will face tough questions from both sides on what she would do to save/plunder these public lands.

I feel better now that I have some sense of a few things going on in the world around me. Anything else I should know about this very second? Please put it in a comment so I can get myself back on track!

Onwards & upwards!

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