Kudos to Chesley Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot behind yesterday's "miracle on the Hudson". Fortunately, passenger jet crashes are extraordinarily infrequent worldwide. But for the aerophobes out there, here are two interesting lists of countries to avoid flying in, and airlines to avoid flying on:
The European Union has a blacklist of airlines banned from Europe for being too unsafe. The list is populated mainly by airlines from African countries and failed states. It includes North Korea's Air Koryo, Sudan's Air West, all of Indonesia's airlines, and over fifty airlines from the Democratic Republic of Congo -- including the unfortunately named "Safe Air Company".
The US Federal Aviation Administration has a list too, of countries that it deems capable, or not, of meeting international aviation standards. Most of the "category 2" countries that don't meet international standards are small or poor countries, like Kiribati and Bangladesh. Israel, though, is a surprise inclusion.
Treat these lists skeptically. They may be politicized. And while air accidents happen six times more often in Africa than in other regions; the rate there is just four accidents per million flights.
Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Small island nations have been one of history's consistent political losers. Precisely because they are so small, they lack the power to resist domination by larger powers.
After seizing the Marshall Islands from Japan during World War II, the United States proceeded to use the the islands as a site for over 100 atmospheric nuclear tests. Decades of litigation resulted in only paltry compensation for the disposessed islanders.
The British expelled thousands of Chagos islanders from their homeland in the 1960s to make way for a military base and recently refused them the right to return to their tiny island in the Indian Ocean. The grounds? It would be too expensive to relocate them.
Nowadays, it is through pollution and global warming that world powers most threaten small island nations. If current trends hold, many inhabited islands will be submerged completely due to rising sea levels. Assuming large states are unwilling to reverse this trend by implementing drastic pollution controls, we have to ask: Will they compensate islanders for eliminating their territories altogether, and how?
[S]catter his people of about 100,000 through the nations of the world as rising sea levels swallow up their native island.
Risse justifies this solution by invoking the 17th-century ideas of Hugo Grotius, who argued that the Earth should be viewed as owned collectively by humanity. If we take this view, states are obligated to accept immigrants whose ownership rights have been infringed upon because their home territories no longer exist. This raises the further question: Are states that contribute more to global warming more obligated to accept the resulting refugees?
This is all abstract, normative philosophy that rests on a contestable assumption; Risse theorizes about about what governments should think and do rather than what they in reality do think and do. But these issues might end up in court. Such philosophical arguments would then play an important role in determining the fate of the many islanders soon-to-be made homeless by global warming.
Photo: TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images, Wikipedia
A recent study by political scientists at MIT and IIES, a research institute in Stockholm, suggests that in the long run media attention really does make politicians -- or U.S. congressmen, anyway -- more accountable:
Congressmen who are less covered by the local press work less for their constituencies: they are less likely to stand witness before congressional hearings, to serve on constituency-oriented committees, and to vote against the party line… Federal spending is lower in areas where there is less press coverage of the local members of congress.
The study set low standards for what counts as press coverage; the researchers simply looked at how often a politician's name is mentioned in local newspapers, which makes the apparent impact of such coverage all the more surprising. The study also finds that press coverage of local politicians is lower in areas where residents get their news from media sources that cater to multiple political districts. Bad news for local readers of the Washington Post and the New York Times?
What happens when you put a chief architect of the Iraq war in charge of the world's most important international development institution? Well, the NYT has a good article about that today, profiling Paul Wolfowitz's first 15 months at the helm of the World Bank.
If you haven't heard, Wolfowitz has launched a massive anti-corruption campaign at the World Bank that's highly unpopular among the institution's 10,000 employees. Why would anyone, let alone a group of well-respected economists and development experts, object to something as praiseworthy as fighting corruption? Well, it's the way he's doing it: by withholding loans and bullying poor countries into political reform. Wolfowitz is taking the same approach to cracking down on corruption at the WB as he did to spreading democracy from the Pentagon - through sheer (albeit this time economic) force:
In his first 15 months as president of the World Bank, Paul D. Wolfowitz has made the fight against corruption in poor countries a hallmark issue, waging an aggressive campaign that has led to the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and contracts to nations including India, Chad, Kenya, Congo, Ethiopia and Bangladesh.
In a controversial FP March/April 2004 cover story (we're all for debate over here at FP), Sam Huntington argued that the U.S. faces a "Hispanic challenge", and that if immigration from Latin America continues unabated, America will be split into "two peoples, two cultures, two languages". This culturalist argument has since been echoed by anti-immigration lobbyists and politicans across the country, with particular emphasis on the question of English vs. Spanish as a national language:
[I]f Mexican immigration abruptly stopped...[t]he inflow of immigrants would again become highly diverse, creating increased incentives for all immigrants to learn English and absorb U.S. culture. And most important of all, the possibility of a de facto split between a predominantly Spanish-speaking United States and an English-speaking United States would disappear, and with it, a major potential threat to the country's cultural and political integrity.
As a first generation (non-Hispanic) immigrant, I've always found it hard to believe that anyone could get by for long in the U.S. without learning English. And a groundbreaking study by leading sociologists at Princeton and UC Irvine soundly debunks this pillar of the anti-immigration argument:
Although the generational life expectancy of Spanish is greater among Mexicans in Southern California than other groups, its demise is all but assured by the third generation.
As the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, there's been a lot of debate and political mudslinging over a key question: Has the war on terror made the United States any safer?
Well, there's nobody better qualified to answer that than Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, member of the President's Advisory Council on Homeland Security, and a distiniguished former Democratic congressman. In this week's Seven Questions, FP spoke with him to get an insider's opinion on what the American government has learned from 9/11, what threats the U.S. still faces, and whether Americans are any safer.
An intriguing study by Syracuse University researchers reveals that, amazingly, terror prosecutions in the U.S. have fallen off steeply to pre-9/11 levels. The Justice department now declines 9 out of every 10 terrorism cases that it receives from other government agencies like the FBI.
There are two possible interpretations of the study: 1) The Department of Justice is being overburdened with cases and isn't doing its job. 2) The sharp rise in terrorism prosecutions just after 9/11 was mostly paranoia - and the prosecution rate is simply returning to normal.
Considering all the hype and scrutiny that terror prosecutions are subjected to these day, I seriously doubt the former explanation. A look at this graphic showing the massive drop-off in average sentence length for those charged with terrorist offences suggests that, since 9/11, a lot of people have been tried without much evidence or for very minor crimes.
Some say that sentence lengths have fallen because the Department of Justice is trying to preemptively prosecute terrorist plots:
There are many flaws in the report," said Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra. "It is irresponsible to attempt to measure success in the war on terror without the necessary details about the government's strategy and tactics."
For instance, Sierra said, prison sentences are "not the proper measure of the success of the department's overall counterterrorism efforts. The primary goal ... is to detect, disrupt and deter terrorist activities."
Others say it reflects a post-9/11 world of paranoid prosecutions and racial profiling - and the recent-drop off in prosecutions shows that the DoJ is finally returning to its senses. You decide.
Just yesterday, I mentioned that the White House has been trying to recast the War on Terror as the Third World War, in an effort to regain public support in the run-up to November elections. There's further evidence of that today in Bush's speech at the American Legion convention:
As veterans you have seen this kind of enemy before. They are successors to fascists, to Nazis, to communists and other totalitarians of the 20th century. And history shows what the outcome will be.
Over at TPMCafe, Bruce Jentleson explains why the rhetorical strategy of discrediting critics by comparing them to appeaser Neville Chamberlain is the oldest (and most misleading) trick in the hawk's book. Here's Lyndon Johnson talking about the Vietnam War:
Everything I know about history told me that if I got out of Vietnam and let Ho Chi Minh run through the streets of Saigon, then I’d be doing exactly what Chamberlain did in WWII. I’d be giving a big fat reward for aggression.
Passport, FP’s flagship blog, brings you news and hidden angles on the biggest stories of the day, as well as insights and under-the-radar gems from around the world.