Author Archives: Karl Reiner

Past, present and future tribulations

When the Gadsden Purchase was completed in 1854, Mexico received $10 million from the United States for the 29,670 square miles of territory, south of Gila River, which the U.S. government added to the New Mexico Territory. At the time, the only military presence in the vast purchase area was the Mexican force stationed at the Tucson presidio. In November 1856, four companies of U.S. dragoons arrived with orders to establish a garrison in the vicinity of Tucson. After scouting the area, they established Fort Buchanan, named for the new president, at the headwaters of Sonoita Creek on the eastern side of the Santa Rita Mountains.

As the troops stationed at Ft. Buchanan chased down outlaws, tried to counter Apache raids and provided protection for the Butterfield stage line, the national political consensus was unraveling due to sectional quarrels over the issues of states’ rights and slavery. Regrettably, President Buchanan and the other national politicians of the day failed to find a peaceful resolution to the sectional crisis. After President Lincoln took office, hostilities erupted in South Carolina in April 1861. As a result, Fort Buchanan was abandoned in July 1861, its troops transferred to places more vital to the war effort. Fortunately for the fragmenting United States, the European powers decided to stay mostly on the sidelines. In America, the Lincoln administration fought a bloody Civil War as slavery and its attendant issues were settled by four years of warfare.

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The world’s human feces problem

In such places as the United States, Europe, Japan and most of China, the people take basic sanitation virtually for granted. Sanitation is not a concern because there is no shortage of toilets, sewer lines or waste treatment plants in these areas. Elsewhere on the planet, approximately 950 million people still defecate outdoors in the open due to a lack of outhouses, latrines and sewers. The link between sanitation hygiene and health has long been known to medical professionals and governments. The flies feeding and breeding on exposed human feces are one of the main transporters of infectious organisms. Contaminated flies can cover a wide area, they have the capability to travel more than a mile. The diseases that flies can help spread can result in chronically infected adults and stunted, sick children. Around the world, the diseases resulting from poor sanitation practices and polluted water kill about 1.4 million children per year.

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Mexico’s trade apprehensions

Representatives from the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States have met four times regarding the revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Although NAFTA needs updating and most trade negotiations usually include a batch of acrimonious subjects, Canada and Mexico view some of the American revision demands as very extreme. This has led some negotiators and analysts to suspect that the Trump administration’s real goal is to put an end to the agreement. Since additional negotiating sessions remain scheduled, the NAFTA trade talks will continue for a while. As the talks drag on, however, the involved business communities of Canada, Mexico and the United States have growing fears that a deal will not be concluded. In the current testy NAFTA negotiating environment, it is difficult to see how a revised agreement can be negotiated that will be approved by the Canadians, Mexico, Congress and the White House. The growing sense of economic unease will surely affect Arizona’s economic ties with Mexico in the future.

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The calamitous Syrian situation

The country of Syria has become the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. In geographical size, Syria is slightly more than 1.5 times the size of the state of Pennsylvania. Syria had a population of around 23 million in 2011. The ongoing fighting has caused approximately 5.2 million refugees to flee the country. The refugees are mostly housed in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Millions more of Syria’s people have been displaced within the country. Since the conflict began in 2011, the number of deaths among Syrian government forces, opposition paramilitaries and civilians is estimated to exceed 400,000.

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The sorry state of Afghanistan

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan was considered to be one of the world’s leading experts in the art of fixing failed states before he became the country’s president. In office since 2014, he is confronted by a large number of intertwined political, security and economic problems. His Afghan government is troubled by a low level of revenue collection, a high level of corruption and a dismal job creation record. The country’s overall literacy rate is about 38%. Afghanistan is a poor country, it has a per capita GDP of $2,000. The Taliban movement is resurgent. It is a severe challenge to the government’s control of territory, economic development and the population’s security.

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The troubled liberation of Mosul

The forces of the Islamic State overran Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in a stunningly swift victory in June 2014. After a nine month long offensive to retake the city, Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, recently declared that Mosul had been liberated. During the struggle to retake the city, it is estimated that thousands of civilians were killed. The exact number may never be known because many of the bodies lie buried in the rubble of wrecked buildings.

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