Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Whirling Vortex

- By Mehroosh Majid-- Kashmir

Warning: Readers may find some details mentioned in the story to be disturbing.

"Sahr! Sahr! Come, see what is happening." Relapsing back to senses, I recounted I am not Sahr. Nevertheless, she clasped my hand in hers and took me to the spectacle. They were tearing a woman's heart apart, shattered her bones to pieces. She asked for  forgiveness while the crowd hummed melodiously, "Wailul-likulli hu mazatil lumazah." A white shimmering cloth in which she was adorned started to slowly smear with her blood and a man steamily smoking cigarettes lowered her.
I closed my eyes as a child horrified only to behold Dal lake coated with squalor, with men thumping their chests. Their musical cadences echoed in my heart,
   Karbala kay shaheedo alvida!
   Karbala kay shaheedo alvida!
   Karbala kay shaheedo alvida!
Going berserk with them I moved my head to and fro. 
A man with a cracked eyeball and bullet-ridden body, in a hapless state and a grim voice, asked me, "Take out my bullets!" whereupon an old lady clutched my hand and said to him, "She is my guest!" and took me to her house.  She pointed to a place and said, "Sit down, will you?" and then said, "NO, sit there!" She repeated it again and again and then cupping her hands said, "My dear, where will you sit? My blood is everywhere! Where shall you sit? I tried to see where blood was. I found nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I woke up drenched in sweat, gasping for some air.

A Murder of Crows

A Murder of Crows

By Henry Yang

When the ground is covered by snow
When the sun shines with Aurelian white
Look up to the snowman.
He glistens on the outside
The icy pale on his frozen curves
Are unlike his insides, filled with mud and dirt
For he is opaque beneath his skin.

He was a crow
Or perhaps he was a mockingbird
Flying as a symbol of forbearance. 
He was a bird, given the name of misfortune
When he served as a warning for crystallized men instead.
Snowmen are not scarecrows.
He would rather let a crow rest beneath his knee
Rather than eye level on his bark arms.

When the snow on the ground turns red
Look to the floor
At the murder of the crow.

They were crows,
Glittering with black diamonds drawn on
A canvas of a slumbering galaxy
They were crows,
Marred by paint from a Snowman
That felt comfort when he saw obsidian birds
Illustrated in his vision of apathetic belief,
Painted like pieces of charcoal
Rather than the inky jewels that they were.

When the ground is ignited
When the sun shines with Aurelian white
Look up at the sky
As the blinding brutal light
Is extinguished by ebony dusk
Look up at the sky
When stars peek from behind black wings;
At the vortex of the void;

At the murder of crows.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Middle Eastern Cold War

The Middle Eastern Cold War 
By Mohamed Ahmed 

It is no secret that the Middle East is one of the most unstable regions in the world. Many of its governments are led by undemocratic rulers, there are countless militia groups that spread chaos and unrest throughout the region, and its nations are seemingly in constant conflict amongst themselves, as well as with nations outside of the region. However, among all the uncertainty that comes with civil wars, uprisings, and economic collapse, there is often one consistent factor, the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia and Iran are the two biggest powers in the Middle East, and they are bitter rivals. Despite this, they have never actually officially declared war on each other, instead, they prefer to fight proxy wars. They accomplish this by supporting opposing sides in other conflicts in the region, such as in the civil war in Yemen, the war in Iraq, and the civil war in Syria. Saudi Arabia and Iran view this as a way to gain greater influence throughout the region, similar to a Cold War. The most famous Cold War is the Cold War between The United States and The USSR from 1947 – 1991, they were both very powerful rivals who fought proxy wars in order to gain power across the globe. The same thing is happening in the Middle East, but instead, they are fighting for dominance and control over the region. In order to understand the conflict, we must understand the origins of the countries. 

After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, much of the Arabic Peninsula was in shambles, tribes fought each other for power, and one tribe, the Al Saud, prevailed and took over what is currently known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Enormous oil reserves were discovered and the Saudis were instantly rich. This resulted in a strong alliance between them and the United States which still exists today. Iran was having a much more difficult time as a result of chaos from foreign intervention. In 1953, the United States staged a coup, removing the well-liked leader Mohammad Mosaddegh, and replacing him with a monarch, Reza Shah. Shah reformed Iran into a secular, “western” country. He was also very corrupt and was notorious for using his secret police to terrorize the population. In 1979 the Iranian Revolution occurred, establishing Iran as a legitimate Islamic country, and this is when tensions began to grow. The Iranian Revolution petrified the Saudi government as they were scared that Ayatollah Khomeini, the new leader of Iran, would inspire the Saudi population to rise up against their government. In an effort to protect itself, the Saudi government strengthened its alliance with the US and formed the Gulf Cooperation Council which is an alliance among the monarchies of the Arabian Gulf.

Another large reason for the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran is their fight for religious dominance within the region. Saudi Arabia has long been considered the leader of the Muslim world, mostly because they are home to two of Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina. But after the revolution, Iran claimed that they can be considered a legitimate, and more powerful Muslim country. Saudi Arabia also has a majority Sunni population, whereas Iran has a majority Shia one. Sunni and Shia are the two major sects of Islam, the split occurred after the death of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). One group believed that his rightful successor should be his friend, Abu Bakr al Siddique, but another group believed that it should be his son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib. 

When Iran and Iraq went to war in 1980, Saudi Arabia supported Iraq with money, weapons, and logistical help, this resulted in the lengthening of a war that leftover one million people dead. In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq and overthrew President Saddam Hussein, this was against the interests of both Saudi Arabia and Iran as Iraq acted as a buffer between the two. After the fall of the Iraqi government, the area became filled with armed militias and terrorist groups. Iran and Saudi Arabia saw this as an opportunity to gain influence. They both began supporting the militia groups with money and weaponry, the Saudis supported the Sunni groups, and the Iranians the Shia ones.

The same thing occurred during the 2011 Arab Spring but on a much larger scale. The Arab Spring was a series of anti-government protests that started in Tunisia that swept the region, successfully toppling numerous regimes in the Middle East. Like the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Saudi Arabia feared its people becoming inspired by the uprising and revolting. This caused them to support many regimes throughout the Middle East that were at risk of falling. Iran, on the other hand, supported the protests as they had been trying to overturn the status quo of the region. This involvement caused many countries to collapse as a result of the pressure being put on them by Saudi Arabia and Iran. 

In Yemen and Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran began deploying their militaries. Saudi Arabia has troops supporting the government, whereas Iran’s military is fighting alongside the Houthis, the rebel group fighting against the government. In Syria, the opposite is occurring. Iran is fighting against militias such as Hezbollah in support of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who are fighting against rebel Sunni groups who are backed by Saudi Arabia.

Now, this Cold War is threatening other countries in the region. Qatar, a small Gulf state whose only land border is with Saudi Arabia, has been blockaded by the Saudis and a dozen other Arab countries, the reason for this blockade is largely due to their growing ties with Iran. Ultimately, the continuation of the Saudi - Iran rivalry is a result of each of them feeling their own national interests are at risk because of the unrest occurring in other countries, whether it’s civil wars, widespread protesting, or government toppling revolutions. All things that they feel are the fault of the other.


Proud Love

This is a poem to remember the Stonewall riots and its leader, Marsha P. Johnson, the coolest drag queen ever. But honestly, it is for everyone who feels like they don't belong. This is for you. 

Proud Love 
By: Anna Johnson 

I write this for everyone
For everyone who felt unloved
Who felt unacceptable
Who felt like they didn't belong

I write this for everyone
To each and every letter
When the whole world stands against you

When love is not love
When hate is all there to exist
When they kick you out
When they question you
When they laugh at you

When you cry
When you break down
When, with every tear,
You question your own love

When traditions and customs
Follow like burdens
When questions are asked
When you pick up that flag of color
And when you are judged

I write this for everyone
To remember stonewall
To remember Marsha Johnson

To remember love will always be love
To remember that God doesn't hate you
To remember that you are still you
No matter who you kiss under the moonlight
No matter how you see love
No matter how you feel

You will be always you.
You will always be more than labels
And love will simply be love.

(Stonewall Riots 1969)

Hero of the Week – Marsha P. Johnson – Glenwood's Division 2
(Marsha P. Johnson 1945-1992)

"[Marsha P. Johnson] is remembered as one of the most significant activists for transgender rights, although the term "transgender" wasn't commonly used during her lifetime. Johnson identified as a "transvestite" and a drag queen, and used she/her pronouns."


Bull Market Confusion

Yes, a Worldwide Bull Market has started. Yes, I'm equally as confused. Yes, the stock market only cares about money. 

Hanson Feng
Chief Operating Officer
Senior Business and Economics Columnist

It’s June 3, 2020; I woke up and opened my usual apps, Instagram, outlook, and apple stocks. It’s been three and a half months of an upward trend for the S&P 500 (the largest composite index covering the American Stock market). I was happy, I held shares in a composite index fund based on the S&P 500. But I was confused, COVID-19 has ravaged society, a large wave of bad loans were projected to hit both retail and corporate bank’s balance sheet, and along with that, a wave of protests across North America and Europe. Why is the market still up? 
I There’s no ethics or social justice to trading. It’s all about money and gains.

Earlier that week I was on LinkedIn with the vast majority of the accounts I follow being big wall street firms in Investment Banking, Consulting, and well-known Bay Street Banks. All of them coming out with formal statements on the George Floyd incident quoting their organization’s inclusivity policy and how inclusion is their strength; truly an external communication manager’s easiest post. 

Let’s be clear, the stock market doesn’t care about injustice or social issues it only values the economy going forward, not the economy of today. There are lessons to be learned here: 

LESSON #1: You are never buying into the market for the economy of today but the outlook of tomorrow. An example of this is Tesla, WeWork, and Spotify. They’re all popular tech start-ups that have investors going off with investments even though they have made zero profit to date, it’s the future outlook of what WeWork looks like to investors.

LESSON #2: The stock market isn’t what it used to be. Back then everyone was on the same playing field, the government wasn’t as involved, trades were logged by a human and to trade you had to have a representative on the trading floor running and casting your trades as the numbers flashed on the board. Let’s go back to that S&P 500 composite ETF fund I own, it is “professionally managed” by a machine with AI. It’s programmed to know how the market swayed in the past and can achieve orders within milliseconds in order to achieve gains. This isn’t a total loss for personal investors like you and me, it simply means that penny stocks and short selling are far riskier unless your finger can press the buy/ sell button at any point in the day.

LESSON #3: The government will get involved if it needs to. A large reason why the market is trending upwards is due to a mass wave of bond purchases by central banks in order to stabilize markets. The fed has said they have not put a limit or budget in place of bond purchasing. While yes, this has dampened the bond market and brought down the returns on bonds, stocks have skyrocketed. Remember, bonds and stocks are typically in an inverse relationship.

LESSON #4: Before the rise of SRI (Socially Responsible Investments), ethics was truly the last concern on Wall Street and Bay Street. It was about money, money, and more money. While I personally buy into SRI portfolios (which statistically perform better), most investors don’t care if their money is coming from a bank that undermines the poor, a Tabaco company whose profits come from killing peoples lungs, or a health care company that charges obscene amounts for an x-ray. Money is money in their eyes.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Montage

-By Raazin Anwar & Siddharth Nair


Thursday, June 18, 2020

How The World Failed Yemen

By: Badra Abbas and Mohamed Ahmed

Yemen is currently in the midst of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. The country has been in a civil war since 2015, with two major sides: the Houthi rebels and the government. The Houthis are a rebel Shia group, backed by Iran. They are rebelling as a result of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s struggle to deal with extremist attacks, a separatist movement in the south, the continuing loyalty of security personnel to the former President who was replaced during the 2011 Arab Spring, as well as corruption, unemployment, poverty, and unequal wealth and food distribution. The government of Yemen is backed by Saudi Arabia, which receives support from the United States. Saudi is also leading a coalition of middle eastern nations that are fighting against Houthi forces. There are also other forces on the battlefield, including terrorist militias, and factions seeking to join or separate from the government. In the end, however, Yemen’s current problems are the direct result of a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, due to preexisting tensions between the countries. 

Unfortunately for Yemen, none of the parties involved in this complex situation seem to have the needs of the people of Yemen in mind. The Saudi government has enacted blockades depriving the Houthi rebels, and the majority of the people of Yemen of critically needed supplies, such as food, healthcare supplies, etc. The coalition has closed important ports, delayed and stopped fuel tanks, and stopped goods from entering Houthi controlled areas. The limited amount of fuel entering the country is needed to power generators to hospitals and pump water to homes. The Saudi government has also conducted an average of 12 military strikes a day since this conflict began, according to 2019 information from the Yemen Data Project. These strikes have destroyed hospitals, schools, and public places such as markets, costing the lives of many innocents. The Houthis have fired artillery into frontline cities without thought for the hundreds of people living there. The Houthis have also imposed severe movement restrictions that have blocked humanitarian aid from reaching those who need it.The United Nations has accused the Houthis of stealing UN food and aid and has been investigating corruption in its own agencies. They have fired missiles into Saudi Arabia, one of which hit an airport and injured 26 people. They have planted illegal antipersonnel mines that have killed approximately 140 people (since January 2018), and further disrupt ordinary life and impede aid workers. Both the major sides have conducted heinous human rights abuses against arbitrarily imprisoned individuals, such as journalists. These abuses range from neglect to sexual assault and other forms of torture. Both sides have involved children in this conflict, and shown an incredible disregard for human life. 

Yemen’s current state is also a testament to international failure. Western countries such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia. Canada, and so forth, have continued providing the munitions used in the war. These weapons, and the subsequent war crimes committed by the major sides of this war also implicate the countries selling the weapons that cost the civilians of Yemen their lives. The UN’s back and forth on this matter has produced very few quantifiable results for the starving in Yemen. The UN body has not taken action such as sanctioning Saudi Arabia, or on the countries supplying the weapons. Ironically, The UN and Saudi Arabia planned to raise billions for relief funds for Yemen. An incredibly audacious feat, considering that the simple alternative is withdrawing their troops. 

To top off this series of colossal failures and abject lack of care for human lives, Saudi Arabia is speculated to be planning on leaving Yemen. Experts believe that the Saudi government has realized the futility of taking over Yemen, and is faced with greater problems at home. The crisis in Yemen is a devastating picture of the consequences felt by smaller nations when larger powers grapple to seize power, a ruined promise of democracy, and the destruction of millions of lives. Reminiscent of WW1, a great struggle for power, rapid armament, and manipulative tactics and proxy wars by dominant powers have destroyed a country. The international community must pressure Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other middle eastern nations to help in Yemen’s recovery and rebuilding. The disgusting actions they took disputed the ways of life of millions, cost lives and still may cost lives in Yemen. There have been around 130,629 casualties according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, and in the midst of a global pandemic, millions of more lives are at risk. Approximately 24 million people in Yemen are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. This includes the over 3 million internally displaced people, 17 million in need of clean water and sanitation, 20 million who are food insecure, and 3 million malnourished children, pregnant women, and lactating women. There are approximately 20 million people who are in need of basic health care and that number continues to go up as a result of a lack of food, clean water, and basic health care supplies. 

Covid-19 has also had a massive effect on the crisis in Yemen. Cemeteries in the country’s capital, Sana'a, have been overfilling over the past months, indicating that the number of deaths is far greater than the official reports. It is difficult to establish an accurate count of cases and deaths as a result of Coronavirus in Yemen because of their limited capacity for testing. Yemen has one of the lowest testing rates in the world with only 31 tests per one million citizens. On May 14th it was reported that there had been almost 400 Coronavirus related deaths in the city that week. Many hospitals in Sana'a have shut down and many doctors and medical staff have stopped going to work because of the lack of protective equipment. The United Nations is warning that Yemen's death toll this year may exceed the total number of dead during the past five years of war, famine, and unrest.

The crisis in Yemen is astonishing in many ways, how long it went on, and how long the people in Yemen were ignored and allowed to suffer. Donations could save lives through aid, and active participation in writing petitions, posting messages of support, and communicating public opinion is critical in saving millions, this time and next time. Like many great military failures, Yemen accomplished little to nothing, cost more than money could pay, and destroyed families in a vulnerable country, with a free-falling economy. It could have been avoided, like WW1, through stable communication, building and encouraging trust, and the decisions of the Western world, not to provide weapons. It should go without saying, that this waste of human lives should never happen again.




Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Boosting the Economy with Consumer Spending

The government has done its job, it’s our turn now to accelerate the rebound of the economy

Hanson Feng
Chief Operating Officer
Senior Business and Economics Columnist

I’m lucky, I come from a home where both my parents work in full-time permanent IT roles and where I work on a lengthy and secure contract in business development. This weekend was the first weekend where restaurants, malls, hair salons, and other businesses were open. It was the first time we were out of the house for more than 2 hours since the pandemic began. We got our haircut, went to the mall (got to love winners and HomeSense), and grabbed dinner at Earls. Both in the name of our sanity but also in the name of a prosperous economy.

I Consumer Spending down 40% (Source: BoC)

On May 29, 2020, Canadian stock markets tumbled after a lengthy bull market following the February crash. This was due to grim economic numbers issued by Statistics Canada and the Bank of Canada for the month of March. GDP fell by 8.2% in Quarter 1 of 2020, 7.2% annualized loss to GDP in March, and consumer spending down by 40%.

I Personal savings have jumped from 3.6% of annual income to 6.1%
(Source: Financial Post)

My last article was about how Canadians need to save more as personal debt is skyrocketing in comparison to income and assets. However, to the nearly 5 million Canadians working from home who statically earn more than their non-work from home counterparts (Source: CTV News), this is the time to spend (out of your chequing account – not your refinanced mortgage or credit card). Whether this is with small businesses who are struggling to keep the lights on, and the rent paid or large corporations who are slowly bringing back laid off staff. As someone who has worked retail, when you spend money in stores (large or small) more staff are brought onto schedules and payroll.

Last night I took a photo at Earls (picture on the right), there was a 30-minute wait for a table, this brought back 50+ staff that are now being paid, which reflects within the economy whether that’s for groceries, gas, clothes, or even money in a savings account that allows a bank to give further loans for small business stabilization. The effect of consumer spending on a mass level cannot be understated here. This produces a massive effect on the economy if done on a wide scale; more loans being paid on time; more money being spent at gas stations and restaurants. All of which reflects a more accelerated growth for the Canadian economy. The effect is massive, we’re talking possibly fewer bankruptcies and higher bank stocks, more people driving and spending money on gas in return allowing for stocks like Husky and Esso to rebound after months of hardship. 

If you’re blessed in this time of economic turmoil with a secure high paying job, this is the time to spend to boost an economy for every Canadian.

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