From popular culture to international military crises, 2013 continues to be an eventful year! Not only was an excellent book published that is available for purchase at Amazon, many major developments in international relations and global culture gripped the world in both exciting and frightening ways these past thirty-one days. Some of these developments concerned more “fun” aspects of our civilization. For example, for the first time in twelve years, American Idol is being beaten by another singing show in ratings (The Voice). Others of course concern far more serious matters of civilian gun violence, possible future wars, possible discovery of alien life, and the election of a new leader of the world’s largest religion. Among the most notable events of the past month with ongoing relevance to world civilization were…
10. Concerns about gun violence continue to rankle Americans.
For example, on Tuesday, 19 March 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said an assault weapons ban would not be part of a comprehensive gun control bill, although the ban’s sponsor Sen. Dianne Feinstein could still offer it as an amendment. Then, near where I was born, a shooting that prompted a lockdown for hours at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia on Friday, 22 March 2013 ended with three dead, including the gunman, said Agustin Solivan, a Marine Corps spokesman. The suspected gunman is a staff member at the Officer Candidate School, according to Capt Eric Flanagan, a Marine Corps spokesman. The motive is unknown. Thus, gun violence continued to be a hot topic in the country. In fact, you can just about not turn on MSNBC these days without seeing coverage of the gun debate!
9. Violence against women also remains a global concern.
Across various television programs in March, scenes depicting brutal and vicious rapes and murders of women flooded American media. Rape scenes appeared on such programs as Bate’s Motel (a man attempted to rape Norma Bates and was killed for his efforts), Vikings (a shield maiden defended a Saxon woman from a male Viking’s attempted rape by killing the man), and also on Spartacus (Marcus Crassus’s fictional son not only raped a female slave, but also Julius Caesar?!). Unfortunately, these disturbing and, especially in the case of the obviously fictitious scene involving Caesar, arguably unnecessary scenes are overshadowed by the real life horrors experienced by women at the hands of rapists and murderers around the globe. On Sunday, 17 March 2013, two high school football players were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio. That same day, five men confessed to gang-raping a Swiss tourist in central India, authorities said Sunday. Police said they would give out more information at a news conference later in the day. The woman was camping near a forest in India’s Datia district with her husband when a group of scumbags beat the husband and raped her, the district’s deputy superintendent of police, R.S. Prajapati, said. Finally, on Tuesday, 26 March 2013, Italian Supreme Court judges overturned the acquittal of American Amanda Knox (born 9 July 1987) and ruled that Knox should stand trial again for the murder of her ex-roommate in a case concerning possible woman on woman violence. To readers, we ask, what more can be done to protect women from such appalling crimes?
8. Cyprus rejected plan to seize bank deposits.
On Tuesday, 19 March 2013, Cyprus lawmakers voted down European Union-mandated seizure of bank deposits to fund a bailout of the country. Yes, you may think Cyprus is just an island nation, but the ramifications had much greater significance due to what it meant for the European Union and as such for the global economy. Finally, on Sunday, 24 March 2013, Cyprus and the Eurozone reached an agreement on a bailout plan aimed at staving off collapse of the nation’s banks: the island nation needs to find a way to raise nearly 6 billion euros to satisfy the conditions of a 10 billion euros European Union rescue or face meltdown when banks reopen Tuesday, 26 March 2013 after a 10-day hiatus. Concerning this news story, we are curious what readers think will happen with the European Union? Will these recent economic crises in Greece and now Cyprus unravel the organization or is it just a temporary hurdle?
7. Fitness icon Joe Weider died.
On Saturday, 23 March 2013, Joe Weider, creator of the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding contest and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mentor, died at 93 of heart failure, his publicist said. Weider now follows his brother, Ben, to the afterlife. On a personal note, Ben Weider had made me a fellow of the International Napoleonic Society and as such was, along with his brother, Joe, much admired among both Napoleon enthusiasts and bodybuilders alike. These brothers contributed greatly to academia and athleticism and will be missed by many, although their legacy lives on! One of the Weider brother’s most desired wishes was for bodybuilding to become an Olympic sport. Do you readers ever see that happening? Should it become a reality?
6. There is a “high probability” that Syria used chemical weapons against opposition forces, although verification is needed, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Tuesday, 19 March 2013.
The claims came amid pressure in the West to arm the rebels, long overmatched by the Syrian military and its allies. The embattled government of President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday accused rebels of a deadly chemical weapon missile attack on the town of Khan al-Asal in Aleppo province. The opposition has accused al-Assad’s forces of using such weapons. The civil war — which began two years ago after a government crackdown on Syrian protesters — has left around 70,000 people dead, the United Nations says, and uprooted more than 1 million people. If chemical weapons were used, should the United States of America and/or any other countries intervene in the conflict?
5. U.S. President Obama visited Israel for the first time.
Speaking of the Middle East, on Wednesday, 20 March 2013, Barack Obama touched down in Israel, beginning his first trip to that country as president. Obama’s trip came amid concerns about Iran’s nuclear progress. His first stop was a visit to an Iron Dome missile defense launcher in Tel Aviv.
Next, on Thursday, 21 March 2013, while in Jerusalem, President Obama said that treatment of the Palestinians “is not fair.” He also promised the U.S. would always back Israel and that Arab states must seek normalized relations with Israel, and Palestinians must “recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state, and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security,” Obama said, adding that “Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable — that real borders will have to be drawn.” Obama said people, not politicians, create peace. Will the people of the region finally bring “peace to the Middle East”?
4. NASA said life was once possible on Mars, and no, we do not mean John Carter!
Okay, this one might technically be “off world”, but anyway…on Tuesday, 12 March 2013, NASA scientist said key chemical ingredients for life, including sulfur, hydrogen and oxygen, were found in Mars rock sample taken by Curiosity rover. If proven, imagine the ramifications! In fact, as a question to reader, if life is discovered to have existed off of the Earth, what does that mean? We are, if nothing else, curious what readers believe with regards to possible extraterrestrial life.
3. Pope Francis I was selected as Pope Benedict XVI’s successor.
2013 was a big month for Christians. The History’s Channel’s miniseries adaptation of the Bible proved a ratings goldmine for network, but even more significantly, Benedict XVI’s time as pope came to a historic, as he became the first pontiff in six centuries to resign. On Tuesday, 12 March 2013, the 115 cardinals who selected the next pope took oaths of secrecy as they prepared to begin their discussions. Moving in solemn procession and chanting prayers as they walked, the cardinal-electors entered the Sistine Chapel after a pre-conclave Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. Once the election process began, the only clue the world would have of what happened inside were periodic puffs of smoke from a copper chimney installed on the chapel roof over the weekend. Black smoke meant no pope. White smoke equaled success. On that day, black smoke rose from the chimney over the Sistine Chapel, indicating that a new pope had not yet been selected on the first day of the conclave. Then on Wednesday, 13 March 2013, the 115 voting eligible church leaders filed into the chapel chamber at 9:30 a.m. local time (4:30 a.m. ET), but black smoke again billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel at 11:39 a.m. (6:39 a.m. ET), indicating that cardinals gathered in the Vatican to elect a new pope had not agreed on anyone in their second or third ballots of the conclave. The cardinals broke for lunch and then resumed voting. They had four opportunities to vote Wednesday, twice early in the day and twice later. A two-thirds majority was required to confirm a new pontiff to step into the shoes left empty by the historic resignation of Benedict XVI at the end of February 2013. Later in the day, white smoke was sent up at the Vatican indicating cardinals have selected a new pope. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected the next pope. He is the first non-European pope and the first pontiff from the Americas. The decision came after the fifth ballot cast by the 115 cardinals since the papal conclave began.
The new pope succeeds Pope Benedict XVI, who became the first pope to resign in hundreds of years. He stepped down February 28, citing advanced age. The new pope became the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, including many of my relatives, friends, colleagues, and students! Bergoglia is now known as Pope Francis. Until last year, Bergoglio, who is 76, was the archbishop of Buenos Aires before stepping down because of his age, which somehow does not hinder his ability to be Pope. “The duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome, and it seems to me that my brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am,” he told the crowd in Vatican City on Wednesday night. Bergoglio is considered a straight-shooter who calls things as he sees them and a follower of the church’s most conservative wing.
2. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, 58, died, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday, 5 March 2013.
Chavez (28 July 1954 – 5 March 2013) had been Venezuela’s president since 1998. His country’s economy has been highly dependent on oil sales to the U.S., but he was an avowed critic of American capitalism. He announced he had cancer in 2011. He then spent more than two months in treatment in Cuba recently, returning to Venezuela two weeks ago. Officials have not said what type of cancer he had. On Tuesday, 5 March 2013, Venezuela accused the domestic and foreign enemies of Venezuela of attacking Chavez and expelled two U.S. Embassy officials who it said sought military support for a plot against the government. Chavez’s body was taken to a military academy in Caracas on Wednesday, 6 March 2013, where it remained in state for three days, the foreign minister said. Chavez’s state funeral was held on Friday, 8 March 2013. Venezuela planned for elections to be held thirty days following the death of Chavez, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua (born 17 December 1969) said. Maduro (born 23 November 1962) assumed the presidency during the interim period. Will Venezuela’s relations with the United States improve now that Chavez is dead?
1. Geopolitical fallout from the 2013 North Korean nuclear test continues to threaten world peace.
Finally, our first item on this list should be familiar to readers of this particular column on TopTenz.net, because it just does not seem to go away. On 5 March, 2013, The UN Security Council held a closed-door session to discuss new sanctions against North Korea following reports of an agreement on a draft resolution between the United States and China. In response, North Korea threatened to break the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War. The news follows eccentric American basketball star Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea. The next day (6 March 2013), The South Korean military stated that it is prepared to respond if North Korea launches an attack as it threatened yesterday. On 7 March 2013, North Korea threatened its enemies with the possibility of a pre-emptive nuclear strike, amplifying its threatening rhetoric. The United Nations Security Council then approved unanimously new sanctions against North Korea for its recent nuclear test. On 8 March 2013, North Korea ended all peace pacts with South Korea and closed all access points between the two countries. North Korean generals affirmed they aimed their long range missiles at the U.S. mainland in retaliation for the recently approved U.N. sanctions.
On 11 March 2013, North Korea’s army declared invalid the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953, an official North Korean newspaper reported. The move came after a joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States began. More than 3,000 U.S. forces took part in Key Resolve, according to United States Forces Korea. North Korea has called the annual training exercises “an open declaration of a war,” but South Korea said it notified Pyongyang that the drills “are defensive in nature.” On the Ides of March, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the Pentagon is enhancing the nation’s ability to defend itself from a nuclear missile attack by North Korea, a U.S. Defense official told CNN. Hagel announced that the U.S. will deploy up to fourteen additional ground-based interceptors on the West Coast, according to the official. Some of those will come from reopening a missile field in Fort Greely, Alaska, and others will be based in California, the official said. It will take up to two years for all of them to come on line, the official said, and will cost more than $200 million. Should the United States prepare for a war against North Korea? Is such a war likely, or is it all just a bunch of tough talk?
Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS and the author of Meteors that Enlighten the Earth