(ITN News: 0114 PST, April 28, 2011) Libya trains a volunteer army for possible Nato ground invasion.
Afghanistan is one of the poorest nations on the earth, where the income per capita is only $446 per year. So when the US Department of Defense announced that Afghanistan may be holding more than a trillion dollars of mineral wealth under its soil, the future prospects of Afghanistan suddenly seemed a little brighter. Some have even stated that Afghanistan could be the Saudi Arabia of minerals.
Great news, right? Not necessarily. First and foremost, Afghanistan will have to stabilize to even attract foreign investors. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Afghanistan, with a population of 27.2 million people, saw $300 million in foreign direct investment in 2008. That might sound like a lot, but Trinidad and Tobago, a much smaller country of only 1.3 million inhabitants attracted over $3 billion in that same year. Even if foreign countries and businesses eventually decide to heavily invest in Afghanistan (and that’s a big if) some examples from around the world show that an abundance of natural resources can create a lot of problems. These problems are often referred to as “the resource curse”. Nowhere is the resource curse more evident than in Africa.
Nigeria’s resource curse is synonymous with its oil problems. Nigeria’s political instability and history of systematic corruption has left much of its oil wealth concentrated in the hands of the few. Rather than being a force for development throughout the country, Nigeria’s oil wealth has far too often fallen prey to government mismanagement or worse - outright graft. Corruption isn’t Nigeria’s only oil problem. Rebel groups in the oil rich Niger River Delta resent both the government and foreign oil companies who ignore the environmental and social problems that come with drilling. Throughout the years, these rebel groups have kidnapped foreign oil workers, and attacked oil rigs making investment by foreign countries less attractive.
Elsewhere on the continent, the mining of diamonds have fueled deadly conflicts and activities of warlords throughout Africa. Charles Taylor, who faces charges of war crimes at The Hague, used diamond exports to fund his support of insurgency groups in Sierra Leone while he was the president of Liberia. Thankfully, the practice appears to be on the decline due to sanctions by the UN, increased international visibility, and a conflict-free diamond certification process.
While these problems may sound unique to a continent continually ravaged by war and prone to corruption, they also exist in abundance in Afghanistan. It’s not hard to imagine mineral wealth squandered by an already corrupt Afghan government. It’s equally easy to see a future in which minerals are used to fund tribal conflicts or even aid terror groups. It would be wonderful to believe that mineral wealth could create jobs, raise the standard of living, and solve many of Afghanistan’s problems. But in its current state, it may be more likely that the minerals would just create new ones.
On the latest Global Pulse episode, Korea Family Feud, host Erin Coker reviews world reaction to rising tensions between North and South Korea. Watch the episode below and share your thoughts!
With a simple YouTube search you can find hundreds of North Korean karaoke videos featuring catchy pop tunes. Some show scenes of young couples on dates eating ice cream. Others highlight hydroelectric dams. Oddly, some mix both in the same video. The most popular of these videos is "Pangapsumnida." It displays scenes of naval and air prowess spliced with images of families reuniting under North Korean flags. The bizarre imagery plays out as a sort of Northern fantasy in which Korea is once again reunited -- as a socialist Korea, of course. Watching "Pangapsumnida" is both fascinating and eerie. Who knew a song sponsored by a brutal dictatorship could be so catchy? It's eerie because the video allows the viewer to temporarily forget the horror that is modern North Korea.
That suspension of reality is perhaps North Korea's biggest export. Desperate to sugarcoat the bleak reality of successive famines and international scorn, North Korea's propaganda machine pumps out some of the most elaborate deceptions on earth. Consider for example, the Arirang Mass Games. Imagine an Olympic opening ceremony in which every reference to sport is replaced with odes to the Great Leader and scenes of the industrial and technological wonders possible under socialism. Regardless of the contrived message, Arirang is quite possibly the most spectacular show on earth. It features up to 100,000 gymnasts and performers moving with razor-sharp precision.
North Korea's deception machine doesn't stop at catchy songs and gymnastics routines. It extends all the way to its own Potemkin village, Gijeong-dong. Gijeong-dong is the only urban area in North Korea visible from the South Korean border. It features a small assembly of concrete buildings and the world's largest flagpole. What it apparently does not include are actual residents. Although no one can be entirely sure what happens at Gijeong-dong (commonly called Propaganda Village), many believe the village is actually unlivable and that the buildings are hollow. Electric lights turn on in unison as if by a flip of a switch, and few people walk around during the day.
Luckily, very few outside of North Korea are fooled by the deception. North Korea's belligerent behavior and abysmal human rights record continue to earn it well deserved scorn from around the globe. While it's difficult for a westerner to swallow any of the outlandish propaganda North Korea feeds us, it might amaze us that we too might be influenced by more subtle propaganda every day, whether by advertisements or our own societies. Propaganda can be powerful. Images and sounds stick to the mind easier than words do, regardless of how odious we find the message. If you don't believe me, try watching “Pangapsumnida” a few times. I guarantee you’ll start humming it when you least expect it.
Was it a missile test or a space launch? Did it fall into the sea or put a satellite into orbit? While most media sources agree that North Korea failed at testing a missile, the North Koreans insist they successfully launched a satellite. The North also launched a propaganda assault inside the country, including patriotic songs supposedly transmitted from orbit and 1950s-style “space age” imagery.
SOURCES: Chosun Central Television, North Korea; KBS, South Korea; FCI, Japan; CCTV, China; NHK, Japan; ABC News, U.S.; Al Jazeera English, Qatar.