Posted on January 14, 2011 in Viewpoint with James Zogby

E.J. Dionne, Jr., University professor and columnist for the Washington Post, discussed the political discourse surrounding the shooting in Arizona which killed 6 people, including a 9-year-old girl, and left several others injured. Among the victims was Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Representative Giffords still remains in critical condition. The tradgedy refocused attention on the rancor of political discourse, which leading up to the shooting, had already been a focus of the media and an issue at the forefront of the political arena. What ensued after the shooting was a national debate bent on placing blame for the violence. “I was really struck that the best commentary ironically and tragically on all of this came from Congresswoman Giffords herself”, said Dionne, referring to statements Giffords made about the dangerous rhetoric and incitement of the public to attain political objectives.


Andrew Natsios, former USAID Administrator and Special Coordinator for International Disaster Assistance and Special Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, discussed the southern Sudan's independence referendum. “I think it's pretty clear by today [January 13] enough people voted to legitimize the election”, said Natsios. He explained that the law in Sudan stipulates at least 60% of the country’s registered voters must vote one way or another to legitimize an election. The independence referendum is expected to split Sudan into two sovereign, independent nations. Natsios addressed many of the issues likely to face the general public in Sudan when and if the south gains independence. Providing background and analysis of the conflict, Mr. Natsios cited his experience in Sudan and time serving in direct negotiations with current Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, Mr. Natsios suggested ideas for relations between north and south.


Bill Corcoran, President and CEO of American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), discussed the current situation in Gaza two years after Operation Cast Lead. Mr. Corcoran, who visits Gaza regularly, explained that the situation there is still dire. Most supplies, he explained, are still scarcely available to the public, especially building materials. Highlighting the lack of building materials available in Gaza, Mr. Corcoran indicated that building permanent housing is still a problem. Sewage and clean water, Corcoran said, are also a huge problem. With 8 of every 10 people in Gaza relying on foreign aid for food, the situation is still extremely critical.