Monday, October 20, 2014

CA GOP Mobilizing Sikhs Against Ami Bera

Some Sikh political activists and the California Republican Party are campaigning against Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, saying he refuses to acknowledge the alleged involvement of the Indian government in the anti-Sikh rioting in 1984. 
Bera, a physician representing a suburban Sacramento district, is the only Indian-American in Congress. 
Other Sikh leaders are planning a fundraiser for Bera this weekend, dismissing the opposition as a fringe group that doesn't represent their religious community. They praise Bera, a freshman lawmaker and Unitarian who was raised Hindu by Indian immigrant parents, as a valuable advocate for all South Asians.
More @ ABC News

The Sinking Yen May Drag Japan's Standard of Living Down With It

Electric bills are higher. The price for a liter of gasoline or diesel fuel has gone up, with costs being passed on throughout the distribution chain. The raising of the consumption tax on April 1 boosted prices at the checkout counter. And certainly the past several months of inclement weather has caused the prices of certain vegetables and other food items to soar. 
Such developments are poised to play havoc with the average household budget. According to data released by the Tokyo metropolitan government in mid-September, the price for a head of lettuce had already soared year on year by 86.5 percent (as opposed to 38.4 percent for cabbage). Other increases (all figures in percent) included beef, 16.2; shrimp, 17.9; tuna, 11.2; salmon, 18.2; imported cheese, 12.2; chocolate, 13.8; and ginger root, 25.5. 
If these weren’t enough, the decline in value of the Japanese yen, which less than two years ago was soaring high at ¥85 to $1, can’t be ignored. Now that rate is approaching ¥110. While certainly making some Japanese exports more competitive, the downside, reports Shukan Economist (Sept. 26), is that it has pushed up the nation’s international balance of payments deficit to nearly ¥1 trillion per month. 
The yen’s decline is also causing a chain reaction. Higher interest rates are pushing more investors to shed their yen holdings in favor of the dollar and other currencies.

More @ The Japan Times

Crowded San Francisco School Board Race a Preface to Tackling Big Issues

One of the biggest issues facing the board in the next four years - the length of a term - is the new Common Core State Standards, which rolled out to the district's math curriculum this school year after being implemented in English/Language Arts instruction last year, said Sandra Fewer, the board's president.
Other recent changes within SFUSD include the Local Control Funding Formula, which gives school districts more flexibility to address specific academic priorities, and the new Smarter Balanced Assessment system that replaces the Standardized Testing and Reporting program, Fewer said. 
"I think that any candidate that wins will bring and add something to the board," she said. "I just hope that they understand the commitment that it involves. It's attending many meetings, but it's also doing the homework and coming prepared to make every vote." 
Board of Education members are paid $500 per month.

More @ SF Examiner

Thai Junta: Desperately Seeking Legitimacy

The international community, especially Western democracies, treats a non-democratically-elected government with caution. However, the new government has a greater chance of achieving legitimacy if it adheres to internationally recognized norms and laws, such as those concerning human rights. The new Thai regime has failed in this respect, having received criticism and accusation of gross human rights violations. A few months following the institution of the interim constitution, reports from both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International denounced the NCPO. The accusations were on grounds of censorship and restrictions on free expression, arbitrary detention, and repression of academic freedom. Amnesty International also reported instances of torture, ill treatment, obstacles to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and unfair trials. Respect of human rights is essential if the regime is to establish state conciliation and legitimacy at the international and regional level. Unfortunately, according to human rights monitors, the current situation is heading towards a “downward spiral” in terms of human rights violations, which will fuel resentment and opposition towards the current regime. There have also been reports of the set-up of so-called “reform centers” to adjust attitudes towards the current regime. These centers allude to the worst in terms of human rights abuses and highly undermine the legitimacy of the ruling government.

More @ McGill International Review

Backwater Backlash Over Fracking May Surge in California

San Benito was the first California county to decide to take the issue to the voters. Campaign ads bankrolled by the oil industry are filling TV and radio airwaves, claiming that a fracking ban would hurt the county's economy and trample property rights. And the issue is straining longtime friendships among farmers and ranchers.
 Supporters of Measure J say they are frustrated that Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers have not banned fracking, a process that involves pumping water and chemicals underground to release oil and gas -- so they decided to go around them.
"I'm hoping every community in California will emulate this," said Andy Hsia-Coron, a retired schoolteacher in San Juan Bautista who backs the measure. "Too many decisions are compromised by money. We have more potential for democracy reviving itself at the local level."

More @ Mercury News

Kim Jong-un's Long Epiphany

Thus given Kim Jung-eun's 40-day absence and the visibility of Vice Marshall Hwang Pong-so and other seniors, and the concurrent diplomatic outreach from Hwang and other seniors in the government, it would be fair to assume that Kim, despite his illness, had instructed these seniors to pursue this type of outreach. If indeed this was Kim's initiative, it was a very positive development. It could mean that Kim is now listening to these officials and relying on them to pursue a more moderate approach to relations with South Korea, the North's most important interlocutor, and with the United States and Japan.

This more moderate approach has to resonate positively with China; it could put North Korea on a path to re-establishing its historic relationship with Beijing. Indeed, statements from North Korean officials that they want to resume the six-party talks process coincides nicely with China's request, during the United Nations speech of Foreign Minister Wang Yi, that the US and others should return to the table.

This diplomatic outreach and Kim's extended absence could also imply that seniors close to him have convinced the leader that his policies were failing and that he had to change course and correct these mistakes; that he had to give these and other senior professionals greater responsibility for establishing and implementing policy. Ideally, Kim would have agreed with this request and reluctantly or enthusiastically blessed this initiative.

More @ Asia Times Online

Forest City's 5M Project Continues on Entitlement Timeline, Still Kind of Shapeless

But a big part of the plan is up in the air: How much office and how much housing? Forest City is pitching two scenarios. The "office scheme" would give the site 871,900 square feet of office space and 914 housing units. The "residential scheme" would provide 598,500 square feet of office space and 1,209 housing units. The residential scheme would also include 59,100 square feet of shared open space, about 15,000 more than the office plan. Both office space and housing are of course in high demand and short supply in San Francisco. One of the difference makers could be the office space cap that the city expects to bump into next year because of the 1980s law enacted under Prop. M. 
The project is in the city's queue for office space approval by the second quarter of next year, which would likely allow it to get space allocation before the city is expected to hit its limit, "as "the Business Times reported earlier this month. Like in "Forest City's Pier 70 project, which is on November's ballot, the developers are stressing that the space is for more than just office workers and residents who can afford luxury.

More @ SF Business Times

Sunday, October 19, 2014

San Francisco Pickup Soccer: Peace in Our Time?

Following pressure from hundreds of community activists, Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg announced that permits for adult play at the Mission Playground soccer field will no longer be sold. 
Nearly 300 people rallied outside City Hall on Thursday morning before the Recreation and Park Commission meeting in which the policy change was adopted, and the teenagers who appeared in the viral video spoke to the crowd.

More @ SF Examiner

Germany backing arbitration over South China Sea in meeting

In a statement made in a press conference on Thursday (Manila time), Merkel advocated a political solution on the longstanding maritime dispute seen to threaten bilateral, trade and security in the fast-growing East Asian region and may potentially affect the world economy. 
"It is in Germany’s interests to have freely accessible shipping channels and tension-free zones," Merkel said in a joint press conference with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in Berlin.

 More @ Philippine Star

Eviction Woes in Kunming Make San Francisco Look Like A Picnic

Now, the Kunming government is reporting that some of the construction workers were killed by being burned alive by angry villagers armed with gasoline. The villagers, meanwhile, claim that the construction workers were accidentally burned to death by Molotov cocktails thrown by their own colleagues. Austin Ramzy of the New York Times covers the new details, which make the Kunming incident not only one of the more deadly clashes over forced evictions, but one of the most gruesome.

Ai-yah. NO, REALLY: AIYAH.....

The rest, plus more China news, @ The Diplomat