Mar 28, 2011

Spring announces itself in DC...

pink buds awaken

fragrant cherry blossom wafts

scent of winter's end

Mar 24, 2011

Vote for Semi-finalist Albert Santoli to be a member of the Energizer Hall of Fame! (Version française)

Albert Santoli
habite à Oakton, VA, travaille à Washington, DC

Docteurs ont constaté qu’Albert Santoli est handicapé pour 100% à cause des blessures de guerre et de maladie terminale conséquente. Cependant, il est le fondateur et président de ‘Asia America Initiative (AAI)’, une organisation à but non-lucratif qui soutient la paix et le développement du sens de communauté aux régions de l’Asie fortement appauvries et déchirées par la guerre.
Après les attaques terroristes du 11 Septembre, il a abandonné une position confortable au gouvernement américain pour établir son organisation pacifiste et anti-terroriste, commençant aux régions tribales des Philippines, où les plans pour plusieurs attaques terroristes contre les États-Unis étaient faits. Après avoir vaincu le cancer de foie en 2009, Monsieur Santoli a refus de capituler et a rassemblé et distribué de l’appui médical et éducatif privé avec une valeur de plus de 70 million de dollars américains. Avec ces initiatives, qui n’ont pas reçues de fonds du gouvernement des États-Unis, il a sauvé des milliers de gens et amélioré les vies de plus de 1,3 million d’enfants et jeunes.
AAI soutient l’éducation publique en améliorant l’infrastructure des écoles, en fournissant des livres et d’autres ressources et en offrant des bourses d’éducation pour protéger les enfants contre le recrutement par les organisations terroristes. Albert n’a pas influencé des vies seulement aux Philippines, il a aussi servi comme tuteur pour plus de 120 étudiants universitaires américains et étrangers, leur apprenant comment conduire des opérations humanitaires et soutenir le développement sur le niveau de base.
Les efforts inlassables de Mr. Santoli soutenant des milliers d’enfants qui sont redoutés et abandonnés par la majeure partie du monde, montrent comment on peut tourner des vies s’il y a quelqu’un qui refuse de perdre l’espoir.

Nous invitons tout le monde de soutenir Mr. Santoli et AAI par voter pour lui par le site Web du ‘Energizer Hall of Fame 2011’ ou la page consacrée de Facebook. Vous pouvez trouver un lien direct vers la page de vote ici. Ensemble nous pouvons y arriver!

Mar 21, 2011

"Google claims China attacked Gmail to suppress dissidents


The preemptive attacks by the Chinese government on Google email users apparently shows their fear that the many demonstrations that have occurred in the countryside -- which are largely unreported or unseen by outsiders -- could become a prominent issue in urban areas, as well.


Google and China's icy relationship hasn't exactly warmed in recent weeks. On Sunday, Google accused China of sabotaging connections to its webmail client Gmail to prevent unrest.

Multiple sources quoted a Google spokesperson's statement to the AFP, in which they said, "Relating to Google there is no issue on our side. We have checked extensively. This is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail."

That statement followed an earlier blog posting in which Google stated that a major country was using an MHTML flaw in Internet Explorer to attack activists. Writes Google security team members Chris Evans, Robert Swiecki, Michal Zalewski, and Billy Rios:

We’ve noticed some highly targeted and apparently politically motivated attacks against our users. We believe activists may have been a specific target. We’ve also seen attacks against users of another popular social site. All these attacks abuse a publicly-disclosed MHTML vulnerability for which an exploit was publicly posted in January 2011. Users browsing with the Internet Explorer browser are affected.
Google is upset because the loss of service both adversely affects its customers and its advertising partners -- its primary source of revenue.

China is being highly cautious in the wake of public unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. Disgruntled citizens flocked to the internet to create "Jasmine rallies", protest events that were planned in major cities for each Sunday. However, thanks to China's crackdown on internet communications, the rallies have thus far failed to materialize, according to U.S. reporters.

The Chinese government is also being cautious, as the Parliament's 10-day annual session has just ended. Typically this is the most heated time of year in China as people voice complaints about Parliamentary decisions.

Google and China have endured a rocky partnership. While Android is selling millions of smart phones in China and while Google Search remains the second most used search engine in the world's most populous nation, the pair have frequently been at odds. Google has accused the Chinese government of allowing hackers to steal parts of its source code, and even alluded that the government itself might be behind those efforts.

Last year Google temporarily uncensored its search in response to these attacks, and was promptly kicked out of China's webspace. Google eventually agreed to re-censor the search results, but it remains more liberal in its allowances.

China's largest search engine is Baidu, a local firm. The Chinese government recently launched its own search engine, Panguso, in a joint venture with telecom giant China Mobile. That search engine, which features even more strictly censored results, has yet to gain significant market share.

The people of China have used proxies to escape the oppressive censorship of the government. However, the Chinese government -- along with its crackdown of Gmail -- has silenced many of these proxy services in recent weeks. The Chinese government also blocked a Google tool designed to allow people to find loved ones in Japan in the wake of the earthquake. Chinese authorities appeared to believe that the tool could be used to organize protests.


Mar 17, 2011

Vote for Semi-finalist Albert Santoli to be a member of the Energizer Hall of Fame!

Albert Santoli
lives Oakton, VA, works Washington DC

Doctors have diagnosed Albert Santoli as a 100 percent terminally disabled veteran from war wounds and subsequent illness. However, he is the Founder and President of Asia America Initiative (AAI), a charitable non-profit organization that promote peace and community development in war-torn and highly impoverished areas of Asia.
Following 9/11 terror attacks, he gave up a comfortable position in government to form his peace building counter-terrorist organization, starting in tribal areas of the Philippines, where some of the terror attacks against the US had been planned. Since surviving liver cancer in 2009, rather than quit and although receiving no funding from US Government, Mr. Santoli has collected and distributed more than 70 million dollars’ worth of private live saving medical and educational support that has improved the lives of over 1.3 million children and young adults.
AAI supports public education through improving school infrastructure, providing books and other resources, and offering scholarships to rescue children from the clutches of terrorists. Not only is Albert making an impact on lives in the Philippines, he has also served as a mentor to more than 120 college students from America and abroad to teach them how to conduct humanitarian operations and promote development at a grassroots level. Mr. Santoli's tireless efforts in support of thousands of children who most of the world fears and would give no chance for better lives, show how lives can be turned around when someone who cares refuses to give up.

We call upon everyone to support Mr. Santoli and AAI by voting for him through the Energizer Hall of Fame 2011 website or the dedicated Facebook page. A direct link to the voting page can be found here. Together we can make it to the top 10 finalists!

Mar 15, 2011

Saudi and UAE troops invade Bahrain

- Gulf Region: battleground for Sunni - Shi’a rivalry.

- Bahrain: 70% Shi’as, run by a Sunni monarchy.

- UAE and Saudi Arabia: 85-90% Sunni's; governments are allies of the US.

- Iran (Shi'a) supports Bahrain protesters.

Read the article 'Bahrain declares state of emergency; new clashes erupt' on

Mar 10, 2011

Lethal Illusion: China's bubble economy

China's latest aircraft carrier

Is it possible that Chinese government in its pursuit to overcome its economic competitors in Asia and the West has copied the same systematic mistakes that led to the economic meltdown of the past five years? The rapid rise of the Chinese has fuelled the imagination of economic speculators who have predicted the dominance of the Middle Kingdom in the next century. Indeed, the thriving Chinese economy is flexing its newfound muscles in both financial and military sectors. The Chinese military budget has seen double-digit increases for the past decade. However, the dramatic paranoid reaction to a feared "jasmine Revolution" on China's own soil betrays the Chinese government's external swagger, as well as a fear of its own population. The Washington Post reported that:

"At least 100 activists have been rounded up, and some have been charged with 'crimes' that could lead to multi-year prison sentences. Three lawyers who did nothing but peacefully attempt to hold China to its own laws - Tang Jitian, Teng Biao and Jiang Tianyong - have been 'disappeared' by security agents, who took them away about three weeks ago and have yet to charge them or disclose where they are being held. Equally lawless, even under Chinese law, is the continuing house arrest of Liu Xia, the wife of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo" (read more)

For 2011, the Chinese Government has recently announced a 12.7% increase in military spending which means the official spending of People's Liberation Army (PLA) currently stands at $91 billion. Yet, this huge amount revealed by the Chinese government does not reflect the actual military spending of the country. The full amount spent on the military that remains undeclared. The high degree of opaqueness and secrecy in military spending has caused fear and mistrust with regional neighbors, ensuing an arms race which has seen countries like Japan and Australia acquiring advanced military technology to balance the Chinese military might. In the words of a Southeast Asian country's defense attache in Beijing:

"[China] say thir strategy is peaceful development, but their military modernization, especially in the naval area, speaks another language." (read more)

In fact, the Chinese Navy's harassment of two Philippines patrol boats within Philippines waters which are believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits in March 2011 showed that the fears of China's regional neighbours are more real than imaginary (Wall Street Journal, March 2011).

Economists and bankers are warning that the glittering prosperity of China might be nothing more than an illusion. Apart from their high military spending, China's drive for modernity also consists of expanding their high-speed railway system and big ticket housing and commercial real estate construction projects that are largely empty do not benefit the Chinese people.

"Far from an economic powerhouse, China's economy remains a middleweight when its vast number of poor people is taken into account - the country's per capita GDP is only around US$4,500, 1/10th that of the U.S. As a share of the economy, household incomes have actually declined over the past decade. The problems will only get worse as China's massive population starts to age rapidly over the next decade. With almost nothing in the way of health insurance, welfare or a social safety net for retirement, Chinese feel pressure to save every penny that earn. At the same time, official policies that favour Chinese banks and exporters - namely artifically low interest rates, an undervalued yuan and cheap labour - come at the expense of household savers. Shanghai economist Andy Xie has cited local media reports that some 65 million urban homes reported zero electricity consumption over a six-month period, suggesting there are enough vacant homes in China to house 200 million people. China continues to build new steel mills, cement factories and aluminum smelters even though up to one-third of exisiting plants sit idle" (read more)

New construction, snapped up by speculators, stands empty in one of China's "ghost towns"

Critics of China's high-speed railway system that costs $274 billion have also pointed out that the high construction costs meant that high-speed rail tickets will have to be priced so high that they will be out of the reach of most Chinese. The huge budget set aside for the development of the high-speed railway system also provides Chinese officials ample opportunities to enrich themselves, given the high cottuption rate within the governing and patronage system. All these signs point to growth that is designed to awe the rest of the world but otherwise does not benefit the Chinese population. The dichotomy between the illusion of prosperity and the lack of real advancement of the Chinese people - including the burst if the economic bubble economy - may cause a serious crisis that may cause the rest of the world to feel the pain, as well.

Mar 1, 2011

Philippine Ambassador Willie Gaa receives Humanitarian Award from Asia America Initiative

On February 24, 2011 at the Philippine Embassy to the United States, outgoing Philippine Ambassador the Hon. Willie Gaa received a Certificate of Honor from the non-governmental organization Asia-America Initiative for outstanding Humanitarian Achievements during his diplomatic service in Washington

Between 2008 and 2011, Ambassador Gaa and the Philippine Embassy consular and military attaché office partnered with Asia-America Initiative to provide more than 50 million dollars of humanitarian medical and educational supplies which directly improved or saved the lives of more than 1.5 million indigent children in areas of severe poverty and armed conflict. Programs included emergency relief for refugees displaced by terrorism and war, victims of floods and other natural disasters, cancer victims and others suffering from rare diseases, health and nutritional support, clean water and a unique Gardens of Peace program as a form of conflict prevention.

Asia-America Initiative President Albert Santoli and Board Member Ms. Bing Cardenas Branigin presented the award to Ambassador Gaa. “The relationship between AAI and Ambassador Gaa and his staff, representing the Philippine government and people, demonstrates the highly effective service that can result from a partnership between non-profit organizations and altruistic public servants, “Mr. Santoli stated. “We will miss Ambassador Gaa’s presence in Washington, but will always consider him and his staff to be close friends and exemplary professional partners who helped make a difference by improving countless lives. We will always be grateful.”