News of Myanmar Elections Brings Worldwide Skepticism


The Southeast Asian country Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, will be holding its first general elections in 20 years on Nov. 7. It is southeast Asia's poorest country, is currently under the world's longest civil war, and has been under heavy scrutiny in the past couple of years. With a population of 55 million, these elections will be heavily publicized and hotly debated. The European Union has already announced its skepticism regarding the elections, saying they won't consider them legitimate. In 1990, during the last presumably free and fair election, the winning party had its leader locked away under house arrest for 15 years.

Last year's elections held in Iran had an all-too similar feel. In June 2009, Iran held elections for a new president. The official results had President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winning the majority of the vote, and this caused a firestorm of international controversy and protests by thousands of Iranians. What ensued was media-exempt violence and the murders of Iranian protesters. Ahmadinejad is considered to be the second-most powerful man in Iran behind its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Supreme Leader controls many of Iran's important factions, including naming the Heads of State and the armed forces. His quick endorsement of Ahmadinejad as the leader made his win official, much to the dismay of opposition supporters.

Elections were also held in Tunisia in 2009, with another severely oppressive government regime. President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was expected to handily win another term, a fact made more evident by recent laws eliminating presidential term limits. He easily won a fifth term, getting over 89 percent of the vote. The country is famous for controlling its press, makings laws forbidding others to run for office and intimidating dissenters. In fact, reporters were forbidden access to Ben Ali and other candidates, not being allowed to fully cover them and the elections.

The world will be watching with baited breath to see the outcome of these elections. People are skeptical, and, in light of recent events in Iran, they have every right to be. Because of what happened in Iran and Myanmar's recent history, no one really expects a fair election. Major powers in the country seem set on letting military rule resume in the country after the elections, so it's hard to see a point in holding elections at all. It's tough to say what might sway them to a proper election. The country's large, oppressive military force has made ruins of its country, leaving its people ravaged. If anything, their priorities are on surviving, not governmental policy.


Associated Press, "EU tells Myanmar world is watching its elections", Associated Press

U Win Tin, "Democracy in Myanmar Falters", Korea Times

BBC News Staff, "Q & A: Iran's Presidential Election", BBC News

Humans Rights Watch Staff, "Tunisia: Elections in An atmosphere of Repression" Human Rights Watch

Joshua Tucker, "2009 Tunisian Presidential and Parliamentary Elections", the Monkey Cage



News Bits: Business and World News


Business News

Kraft proposes $16.7 billion, Cadbury rejects

Kraft Foods Incorporated offered to pay $16.7 billion to buy out the British candy maker, Cadbury PLC. Cadbury rejected Kraft's proposal because it felt that the offer "undervalued the company". Kraft is unrelenting, however and is determined to propose a price that is supported by Cadbury. Cadbury stock experienced a sharp rise (41 percent) Monday on the London Stock Exchange.

G-20 continues stimulus programs, Euro and Asian stocks rise

The G-20, consisting of the globe's 20 wealthy and developing nations, decided to continue its stimulus programs, which are intended to support the global economy. This news proved beneficial to the European and Asian stock markets Monday as the markets rose. News that Cadbury rejected Kraft's $16.7 billion bid also sent stocks upward.

World News

Philippines: capsized ferry kills 9; 926 rescued and 33 others missing

Sunday, a Philippine ferry capsized killing 9 people. The accident injured 926 people and 33 others are still missing and search efforts are underway. There is no evidence that the accident was due to a terrorist attack.

Sudanese women wearing trousers fined, not flogged

Lubna Hussein, a Sudanese journalist is challenging a conservative Islamic law, which prohibits women from wearing trousers in public. In July, Hussein was arrested and charged with public indecency for appearing in public wearing trousers. The international community which has sympathized with Hussein's cause drew significant criticism of the law and compelled the judge hearing Hussein's case to issue a $200 fine rather than 40 lashings to women wearing trousers in public. In protest of the law, Lubna Hussein chose not to pay the fine and to remain in prison for one month.

Iraq: 7 killed and 10 injured by car bomb

Police and hospital spokespersons have confirmed that seven people were killed and ten others injured by the explosion of a car bomb near Ramadi, Iraq on Monday.

3 British men connected to al-Qaida convicted of plotting a major terrorist attack

Three British men were found guilty by a United Kingdom court of planning a major attack on the United States and Canada. The three Muslim men, all in their late twenties, intended to blow up around seven planes in the United States and Canada. British and United States officials have directly connected this planned attack with al-Qaida and Pakistani Islamic radicals. Abdulla Ahmed Ali, Tanvir Hussain, and Assad Sarwar were three of 25 individuals arrested in August 2006 for plotting the attack.

Iran will continue its nuclear program says Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reaffirmed that Iran will not stop its nuclear development program. Ahmadinejad claimed that the development of a nuclear program is in harmony with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. He claims to be willing to engage in talks with global powers, but is unwavering in his stance that it is the Iranian nation's right to develop a nuclear program. A watchdog for the United Nation's has warned that the conflict over Iran's nuclear program will lead to a "stalemate".


Cadbury rejects Kraft's $16.7 billion bid

Stocks rise after G-20 say stimulus will stay

9 dead, 926 rescued from capsized Philippine ferry

No flogging for trouser-wearing woman in Sudan

Police: Car bomb in west Iraq kills 7, wounds 10

UK court convicts 3 of plot to blow up …

US News and World Report College Rankings: Hot Off the Press, Controversial as Ever


US News and World Report released its annual college rankings online today and will publish them in next week’s print issue. If the US News and World Report College Rankings can be counted on for just one thing, it’s stirring up contoversy. The US News and World Report College Rankings attempt to establish a hierarchy among United States colleges and universities. Like any hierarchical system, the US News and World Report College Rankings are subject to interpretation and dispute. “Best” is not an objective term, after all, even when predicated on objective standards.

Already the winners are boasting, the losers are posturing, and the wannabes are claiming victory in their dubious standings. Some schools boycotted the peer review process that contributes to the rankings, disenchanted with the process and its anticipated results.

The US News and World Report College Rankings actually comprise several related lists. There’s a list for National Universities, one for Liberal Arts Colleges, and one for up and coming schools. US News and World Report also compiles Quick Comparisons to enable list users to identify schools offering the best values, those with the most ethnic diversity, economic diversity or foreign students, or the highest freshman retention rate.

US News and World Report College Rankings: Who’s on Top?

The complete US News and World Reports College Rankings can be read online here.

US News College Rankings for National Universities

US News and World Report identifies these universities as the top 10 national universities: 1. Harvard, 2. Princeton, 3. Yale, 4. MIT and Stanford, 6. CIT and Penn, 8. Columbia, Duke, and Chicago. My own alma mater, Boston College, ranked a not too shabby 34.

US News College Rankings for Liberal Arts Colleges

The top 10 liberal arts colleges according to US News and World Reports are: 1. Amherst and Williams, 3. Swarthmore, 4. Wellesley, 5. Middlebury, 6. Bowdoin and Pomona, 8. Carleton, 9. Davidson, 10. Haverford.

US News College Rankings for Best Value

US News and World Reports College Rankings for best value consider the amount of financial aid typically available in the form of need based grants to reduce the cost of attendance. Accordingly, the list of Best Value schools is not even close to synonymous with the nominally least expensive schools.

According to US News and World Reports, the top 10 Best Value schools include: 1. Harvard, 2. Princeton, 3. Yale, 4. MIT, 5. Stanford, 6. CIT, 7. Dartmouth, 8. Columbia, 9. UNC-Chapel Hill, 10. Rice. I was pleasantly surprised to find my alma mater Boston College on this list in 38th place.

US News and World Report College Rankings: Are they Useful?

Overall Quality

US News and World Reports College Rankings are one tool for evaluating a college or university’s status. Upon graduation, the status of the college or university attended is a relevant factor to many employers. So while the difference between the #2 school and the #6 school may not be significant, the difference between attending a top 20 school and a bottom 20 school may have some significance among the many factors that contribute to a graduate’s success.

Admission Rates

The College Rankings provide a quick index for comparing admission rates. An applicant may find this information helpful in narrowing the list of schools to which he will submit applications. If …