United States presidents rarely visit the U.S. territory of Guam (or Guåhan in the Chamorro language), but President Obama may visit in June 2010. This will be a significant stop for residents of this small island, 30 miles long and eight miles wide, dubbed, “Where America’s day begins.” Guam is the southern-most island in the Northern Mariana chain that also includes Rota, Tinian, and Saipan. It is the homeland of indigenous Chamorro people whose ancestors first came to the islands nearly 4,000 years ago. Formed from two volcanoes, Guam’s rocky core now constitutes an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” for the United States military in the words of Brig. Gen. Douglas H. Owens, a former commanding officer of Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base.1
In case you hadn’t noticed, our Afghan War, like some oil-slicked bird in the Gulf of Mexico, has been dragged under the waves. It’s largely off front pages and out of the TV spotlight (despite the possible linkage of the Times Square failed car bombing to the Pakistani Taliban). As a result, most Americans undoubtedly have little idea just how large the American war effort there has grown. The president’s massive surge — not just of troops, but of State Department civilians, CIA agents, drones, contractors, base building, and who knows what else — is actually going (if you’ll excuse the phrase) great guns.
The bubble is bursting.
I’m not talking about the Greek economy, the collapse of which has bankers and finance ministers trembling from Athens to Antarctica. Nor am I talking about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which reminds us once again that our current energy security rests on shaky foundations.
When international human rights observers rounded a curve on a remote road in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, they found the way blocked by boulders. They decided going forward would be dangerous. But they didn’t know that going back would be deadly.
It is hard to overstate just how deeply unpopular the United States is in the Muslim world.
A 2008 poll of six majority Muslim countries found that overwhelmingly large portions of the population, ranging from 71 percent in Morocco to 87 percent in Egypt, held unfavorable opinions of the United States. A 2009 poll in Pakistan revealed that 64 percent of the public views the United States as an outright enemy.
In the Mayan game of pitz, the first team sport in human history, two sets of players squared off in a ball court that could stretch as long as a football field. The object of the game was to use hips and elbows to keep the ball in the air and, if possible, get it through a hoop set high on a stone wall. The ball was roughly the size and heft of a human head. Indeed, given the sheer number of decapitations in the Popol Vuh, the sacred Mayan text that prominently features the game, scholars have not ruled out the possibility that the teams sometimes played with the heads of sacrificial victims. It’s also probable that, at the conclusion of the game, one team or the other fell en masse beneath the priests’ daggers.
Lately, the news from Mexico has not been particularly positive. Every day the number of victims of the ongoing turf wars in the northern border area of the country grows. In 2009, Mexico reported 7,724 drug war-related deaths,1 while in January of this year alone, the number of people killed in Ciudad Juárez reached a stunning 227. Recently, over the weekend of March 13, 2010, nearly 50 people were killed in that bloody city, including employees and family members of the U.S. Consulate. Most scholars and politicians believe that these deaths are all related to drug gang activity, implying that they are the result of in-gang struggles for control of businesses and territory; fights amongst gangs for routes, and because of clashes with the military.
While Canada opens its doors to Olympians and the world, its own opposition parties are locked out of Parliament.