Category Archives: The Intelligence, Spring 2017

Photojournal: The Rarest Gemstone in the World

Mines in Northern Tanzania are the only source of one of the world’s most coveted gemstones.

By Marcos Guzmán Ortiz

Tanzanite: one thousand times rarer than diamond, and therefore one of the most coveted gemstones in the world.

In an area accessible only by dirt roads, 50km from the nearest town in the Mererani Hills in Northern Tanzania, sits a vast and crowded mining industry. Here, a few hundred meters below the subsoil, exists the only known seam of tanzanite in the world. Discovered just a half century ago, since then this type of zoisite stone has successfully entered the gemstone market as an excellent and cheaper alternative to sapphires. Its strong trichroism characteristic means that it reflects different colors as it turns in the light. Named and brought to fame by the American luxury retailer Tiffany & Co, tanzanite prices have increased every year, and so far as no other seam in the world has been discovered. It is estimated that the existing seam will be depleted in 30 years’ time. The reality behind the stone’s blue and violet sparkles, however, is neither shiny nor glamorous.

In 1971, the mines in the Mererani Hills were nationalized and the land was split to allow large private companies and smaller local miners to extract the mineral. Despite a lucrative wholesale export market ($50 million annually in rough mineral), Tanzania’s government has consistently failed to provide basic civilian infrastructure and safety measures for the workers of the local mining companies and communities.

The Mines of Mererani

As we arrive in the shanty town that houses the workers, we realize how precarious it is to live in the area. Hundreds of shelters and a few restaurants and shops inside huts create the landscape around the mine’s walls, built by local land-owners to restrict access. Once we are within the walls, we see that …

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Alternative Facts are Nothing New

Holocaust denial and the rejection of consensus truth has been around a long time. How can it be countered?

By Peter Bjel

“You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Denying that Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe during the Second World War—thereby willfully murdering up to six million, or one-third of the world’s Jewish population—is akin to claiming that the Earth is flat. Among 20th-century genocides, the Holocaust is unique not only for its broad scope and use of modern infrastructure, but because it is incredibly well-documented.

Though they were the first to deny the scope and intent of their actions, the Nazis left behind a massive detritus of planning, orders, correspondence, action reports, and logistical details that proved to be too copious to destroy as Germany’s defeat grew imminent. Nonetheless, a movement has evolved, alongside organized racism and fascist ideology, denying that the Holocaust ever happened. These Holocaust deniers would remain marginal were it not for their adroit tactics of cloaking the intent of their ideas.

This past December, Google was forced to take action when it emerged that online queries about the Holocaust performed via its search engine returned results that emanated from neo-Nazi and Holocaust-denying websites.

“This is a really challenging problem, and something we’re thinking deeply about in terms of how we can do a better job,” declared a Google spokesperson to the BBC. “Search is a reflection of the content that exists on the web.”

At other times, Holocaust denial has been publicly brought to light via criminal and libel trials in both Europe and North America. This spring marks seventeen years since one of the biggest and most significant of these trials took place in London’s Royal Courts of Justice. Over the span of three months, from January to April 2000, a libel suit brought against …

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Coal in the Jungle

Bangladesh’s growing energy needs threaten protected wetlands, the last home of the Royal Bengal tiger.

By Sazzad Haider

Bangladesh has started construction work on a coal-fired power plant within 14 km of the protected Sundarban river delta, which contains the planet’s largest mangrove forest. According to protesters, the still under construction Rampal power plant will be one of the greatest risks to the fauna and flora of the Sundarban. Despite the efforts of UNESCO and environmental activists to halt or relocate the controversial project, the government is moving forward—but the nation is divided over whether to prioritize development or the Suderban’s delicate ecosystem and the last home of the critically endangered Royal Bengal tiger.

The Home of Bengal Tigers

The Sundarban, a deltaic mangrove forest of amazing beauty, was named after its ubiquitous Sundari trees. The forest covers around 10,000 square km, a major portion of which is in Bangladesh and around 4,264 square km in India. The Sundarban was formed by the confluence of three mighty rivers: the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, and the Meghna. Consisting of 54 small islands, the mangrove forest is crisscrossed by several flows of the Ganges. This interconnected network of rivers and channels make almost every nook and cranny of the forest accessible by boats or rafts. The tidal ebb and flow of the Bay of Bengal regularly submerges the islands. As a wetland, the Sundarban is an incredibly diverse ecosystem and sanctuary for many different species of birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, and fish, and it is the only home of the Royal Bengal tiger. A UNESCO world heritage site, the Sundarban was declared protected under the 1971 Ramsar Convention on wetlands.

The Sundarban is also home to a large human population. Nearly 7.5 million Bangladeshi people directly or indirectly depend on Sundarban resources. It is the largest source of forest products in Bangladesh. The forest provides …

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Fleeing America Across a Freezing Border

Since Trump’s election, Canada is seeing a rise in the number of people illegally crossing its border from the United States.

By Alexander H. Maurice

The town of Emerson, Manitoba, is a tiny village its founders called “the gateway to the west”. At the end of the 19th century, Emerson was founded by American immigrants who came to Canada, looking to improve their economic situation thanks to a land grant from the province of Manitoba. While many things have changed in the century since its founding, the village, situated directly on the U.S./Canada border, remains the gateway to the Canadian west—only now for a new group of immigrants. Since Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination, the residents of Emerson have seen growing numbers of “border hoppers” entering Canada at locations without a designated border crossing. Since the inauguration, in the coldest months of the year, these numbers have continued to grow.

Emerson lies immediately across the border from the town of Noyes, Minnesota, from which train tracks run directly north. Refugees are able to take a taxi to less than a mile north of the town, which leaves them within sight of Emerson. From there, they are able to walk across the border to Emerson, where they can call the police to be picked up to have their asylum claims registered. While it is normally a crime to cross the border in this way, under Canadian law it is not illegal if the purpose is to make an asylum claim.

Noyes to Emerson may be one of the easiest border crossings. Those less fortunate have taken an expensive taxi trip in North Dakota, or elsewhere in Minnesota, from where they have then walked over 30 km, throughout the night and in freezing temperatures, to cross the border.

People are forced to take this trip due to complications in Canada’s immigration law. Many of these people have legitimate asylum claims when they reach Canada. In 2015, the Immigration and Refugee Board approved over 57 percent of refugee claims made from within Canada, but these same people are currently prevented from entering Canada at legal border crossings with the U.S. due to …

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The North Korean Faultline

Security experts in both China and America are concerned about the direction the hermit regime is headed under Kim Jong-Un.

By Farhan Zahid

The hermit state known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or more popularly North Korea, and its eccentric leader, Kim Jong-Un, have become even more of an international migraine than they already were. Kim Jong-Un’s new statements concerning nuclear tests and his unswerving insistence on building intercontinental ballistic missiles have galvanized foreign governments against the pariah state. The assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-Nam, in Malaysia by North Korean agents has also created an upheaval in regional politics. Ruling over what is seen as one of the worst and most corrupt totalitarian societies in the world, the junta in charge appears to be deeply unstable. Tensions are rising on the Korean Peninsula, and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, combined with its race to develop long-range ballistic missiles, which would be in the hands of an unpredictable despot, are at the center of these concerns.

Crises Under an Eccentric Despot

Of all countries in the world, the situation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is perhaps the most peculiar. Even among the three remaining communist states of the Cold War era, North Korea presents a unique case. Under its aberrant leader Kim Jong-Un, the grandson of founder Kim Il-Sung, the country has languished under the worst form of totalitarianism since its birth, and matters have not improved since the 33-year old Swiss-educated supreme leader of North Korea took over on the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, in 2011. Hopes that his time in the West would make him amenable to improving relations with the rest of the world were dashed, as he revealed himself to be as tyrannical as his forebears, and even worse at managing the state’s affairs. Not content with having hundreds sent to his country’s gulags, he has had even uncles and other close relatives of his executed as he asserts his authority. The most recent case is the …

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Pro-Business or Anti-Muslim?

Which strategy brought Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party success at the state level?

By Rajendra Prabhu

Asia’s most stable democracy, usually praised for its strong secular political tradition, took another step towards majoritarian Hindu rule in this spring’s provincial and local elections in several parts of the country. India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, with a population of 120 million, overwhelmingly voted for the state-level branch of Prime Minister Naredra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. The results were dramatic, with significant implications for the state’s business climate as well as its Muslim minority.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has scripted another spectacular political triumph,” wrote eminent intellectual and President of the Centre for Policy Research Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who has been a strong critic of several missteps Modi has taken over the last three years. The first great countywide swing for the political movement was in 2014, when the connected Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Modi’s powerful leadership won 274 seats out of 542 in the lower house of the India’s Parliament, making Modi the Prime Minister. This spring in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP won 324 seats out of 403 in the state’s legislative assembly, among several other state elections. Except in the state of Punjab, which was won by the National Congress, cheers of “Modi, Modi” echoed throughout the five states that went to the polls for their state-level legislatures.

Modi needed this political boost to counter his apparently declining popularity over the past year. The reason: the …

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Muslim vs. Buddhist

Myanmar’s young government must contain its growing ethnic divide.

By Animesh Roul

When Muslim militants attacked Myanmar’s border police in the western Rakhine State, the Buddhist-majority nation’s security forces struck back against the region’s vulnerable Muslim minority, who do not have citizen rights. The decade-old conflict between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya (Bengali) Muslims has drawn international attention. There is a severe risk in the embattled Southeast Asian country that the clashes could spark both a militant Islamic insurgency against the state and a genocide against the Muslim minority population. Myanmar must somehow halt both.

Armed attacks against border police continued on and off for days toward the end of last year. An October 9 attack killed nine border policemen, and as many attackers died in the ensuing gun battles. A similar ambush on October 11 left four more policemen dead. Violence again erupted on November 12-13, when armed militants launched a surprise attack on a military convoy during a clearance operation in Ma Yinn Taung village in Maungdaw town. Two security personnel, including a senior army officer, died in the ambush, while several suspected militants were killed. Subsequent government backed counter-insurgency operations in the area witnessed an escalation of armed clashes that claimed the lives of nearly 70 suspected Rohingya militants and 17 security force personnel.

Government forces have been accused of retaliating by razing entire villages of displaced Rohingya to the ground, with security forces allegedly killing over 500 people and …

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