Well, I hope you survived the crush of end of term and then the crush of family and holiday stuff, if you are in to that kind of thing. In the meantime, if you stepped away from the media, what did you miss? Well, South Sudan is on the brink while the Central African Republic may be stepping back from it. Syria remains an awful mess, with winter being a desperate time for IDPs and refugees. There are some unexplained dolphin deaths and more difficult conservation news so time to re-double our efforts at understanding and problem-solving of all sorts in the new year. Here are some stories to get you thinking…

  • South Sudan, the world’s newest state, is riven by ethnic conflict and factionalism with oil rents of course a major source of division. Former USAID administrator in the Bush Administration Andrew Natsios writes that someone needs to save South Sudan from itself and lays the blame all around:

Mr. Kiir must release all political prisoners from the S.P.L.M. He also should put in place an interim government until elections can be held. Mr. Machar, for his part, must cease all offensive military operations and withdraw his troops from the oil fields. If he refuses, the United Nations should impose sanctions….A decade ago, Mr. Bashir argued that the South should not be granted independence because the Southerners could not govern themselves and would lapse into ethnic conflict. They must not prove him right.

  • The Obama Administration’s Atrocities Prevention Board acted to try to prevent the escalation of simmering conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR). Obama taped a message to broadcast in CAR while en route to the Mandela funeral. The Obama administration also freed up resources to support African peacekeepers as well as the deployment of American military advisors. Though perhaps too soon to make claims of a crisis averted, Hayes Brown described it thus:

For a period, it looked as though the world was preparing to sit idly by yet again as another mass atrocity was perpetrated on the continent of Africa. Two days later, it was like a switch had been thrown. The president of the United States asked for the people of the CAR for calm, speaking to them directly through the Internet and radio. The president shook $100 million loose from the federal budget, to purchase much-needed supplies to the African peacekeepers struggling to stem the killing and airlift in reinforcements.

  • Tiny Bulgaria is struggling to handle a small number of refugees, some 6,500, small beer compared to the 2 million in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt, but the country is having problems nonetheless, and their presence reminds us that Syria’s problems are problems for the region. The number of refugees has increased by almost 2 million in just a year as the situation has deteriorated.


In conservation news, mysterious ailments are killing large numbers of dolphins, another reminder to me of an earth in trouble. The Times reports:

  • So far this year, nearly 1,000 bottlenose dolphins — eight times the historical average — have washed up dead along the Eastern Seaboard from New York to Florida, a vast majority of them victims of morbillivirus….“Marine mammals are very good sentinels for ocean and human health, and they really act like the proverbial canaries in a coal mine,” said Dr. Greg Bossart, a veterinary pathologist and senior vice president in charge of animal health at the Georgia Aquarium. “They give us an idea of what’s occurring in the environment.”