Category Archives: International

A Slow Clap for Equality

A quick scroll through CNN’s homepage or a flip through the morning’s New York Times is almost guaranteed to communicate some type of headline on the issue of equality—whether it be of the minority, women, or LGBT. The fact is, conversation in America, ever since its breakaway from Great Britain, has been constantly involving the issue of equality. Even the sheer mention of this country is able to evoke images of fairness and freedom for all.

Yet, in this highly modern and growing society of today, meanings have changed and views have shifted. What equality and the push for this concept once were no longer hold constant. The oversensitivity and impulse to grab onto any type of advancement, and to be satisfied with a superficial legislation has taken over our reason.

For the first time ever, Saudi Arabian women were granted the right to vote. Headlines on multiple major news sources donned prosperous and feel-good stories of this progress. However, they fail to account for the entire picture and the restraints the nature of Saudi Arabian government place on this achievement. In this notoriously misogynist country, this reform appears as an obvious milestone. Still, this milestone falls short.

The catch is that Saudi Arabia is not a democracy. Unlike America, Saudi Arabia provides no meaningful medium of expression: no free press, no personal authority, and no legal authority. Politics revolve around the King, rather than the voices of the population. If any change is to be made, it is more likely to be accomplished through connections with the prince than running for office with an egalitarian driven candidacy. Amid this patronage network for the royals, the ability and value of voting are crowded out and have little to no influence at all.

Despite being able to vote, the women of Saudi Arabia are still discriminated against, and laws that exclude women are still in relevance. Women, without the accompaniment of their male relative or spouse, can neither drive nor travel. Even with the power to vote, what can Saudi Arabian women do? In respect to Saudi Arabia’s highly oppressive political system, we can only see this as an advance on paper only.

All in all, we should still commend the women of Saudi Arabia, and other minorities alike who are discriminated against, for making it so far, and accomplishing such feats. Although we cannot respond to this event with celebration and applause, a slow clap will do.

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New Year, New Views

Many of us have probably heard of the intelligent young teenager, Ahmed Mohamed, who built a clock and was arrested because his teacher thought it was a bomb. How ironic, that this 14 year old wanted to impress his teacher, and was instead incarcerated for his exceptional abilities. Of course, Ahmed is now meeting influential figures like Obama, and his life has been changed for the better. But is this incident a unique example of religious discrimination, or is it just one of many discriminatory incidents? Let’s take a look.

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The US population, especially in recent months, is all too aware of Donald Trump’s views on immigration and religion. He recently declared that he wanted to forbid the entry of all Muslim people into the country, because he believes it will lower the chances of terrorist acts. Beverly Swanburg, a Trump sympathetic, stated “We should not let any more in, any more immigrants from Mexico or Muslim.” Is it fair to ban all Muslims from entering the country, when there are only a select few who commit terrorist acts? Even those who practice the Islamic religion are scared of those who engage in terrorist activity.

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Real estate tycoon Donald Trump speaks during the prime time Republican presidential debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Moreover, there is also racial discrimination present in the US. The idea of affirmative action that is used in college admissions is just one example. Although the purpose of affirmative action is to ensure a diverse population within the student body, it is harder for Asian students to get into a college than Hispanic students with the same test scores or accomplishments. This means that Asian students have to work much harder in order to get into top schools than other minorities or Caucasian applicants. In order to prevent selection based on ethnicity and gear them towards intellect and accomplishments, admissions should be race blind.

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There are obviously more incidents of discrimination that occur world wide. However, listing all of them would take far too long. A change to a more inclusive society is possible if people learn to be more accepting of other religions and races, rather than just tolerant. It’s now 2016, and a new year may be just what we all need to change our attitudes towards others’ differences.

Trust…does it exist?


“Trust. It takes years to build and seconds to break.” The brilliantly accurate quote, by an unknown genius, represents how corrupt our world has become because of the lack of trust in mankind .

Trust is the foundation of any relationship, equally as important to building a house as to support a family. A hammer, used to concur the wood together when building a house, correlates to the communication needed to assure that both parties are on the same page when creating a trustworthy relationship. The nails, which the entire house relies on to hold the walls together, correlates to the promises being made in a trusting relationship. Finally, the walls which create a layout for the entire house, represents the honesty of each person existing in a trusting relationship. Whether it is in your social life or workplace, all these tools are necessary to build the trust you want with your companions. However, trust is beginning to diminish while betrayal is under the spotlight.

Cheating, lying, stealing, law breaking. They are all forms of betrayal. Perhaps this disloyalty is not only identified in people themselves, but also detected in a respected precedent, which should be encouraging right rather than wrong. The National Security Agency (NSA) illegally scrutinizes our phone calls without our consent. The issue, which arose in 2013 when Edward Snowden released information about the NSA collecting data of telephone conversations, live chats, emails, an
d search histories, angered many citizens who fought against this action, stating it violates their Fourth Amendment rights. Considering that the citizens of our nation assume that all of their Constitutional freedoms are protected, the government is betraying innocent residents of our country. Civilians expect privacy which our government promises in the Constitution. Through this act of inspecting personal information without approval illustrates a reason for citizens to not trust our “reliable”  government.

Believe it or not, the U.S. government is not the only one deceiving us. Our country’s acquaintance, Iraq is destroying the integrity between our countries. The Islamic State In Iraq, also known as ISIS, is a terrorist group intruding into other countries and killing an abundant amount of people. The latest outbreak of the aggressive hate group was on the 14th of November, 2015 in Paris, France. The shooting and bombings in Paris killed about 129 people and injured approximately 352. Major okterrorist groups such as this one provoke all of mankind and brings fear to all individuals because of the lack of trust between countries. Nations cannot trust their allies because they are too afraid of further barrage. People these days are taught to trust no one due to hate groups such as ISIS, which may strike and surprise anytime without any suspicion.

In this case, the hammer is used to break down all the walls of our home, keeping no promises. The nails, which hold our countries together, are not strong enough to retain the walls. Lastly, the support we obtain from the walls of our home are destructed through the dishonesty of other countries.

Our world endures betrayal. We must reestablish the trust we once had to improve humanity, complementary to the quote of obtaining trust and having it betrayed in the matter of seconds.

 

Pray for Paris

On November 13, 2015 a series of attacks unfolded in Paris that left the whole city and the rest of the world in devastation. It is reported that 3 separate teams carried out these attacks leaving nearly a 129 people dead.

The first attack took place around 9:20 PM outside the Stade de France where a soccer match between Germany and France was under way. Play was halted after the players and spectators heard a loud explosion outside the stadium. Two bodies were found, one who was believed to be that of the suicide bomber and the other, that of a nearby civilian.

The second attack took place just minutes later at a restaurant in Paris, Le Petit Cambodge. The restaurant was attacked by shooters driving by in a black van. This incident was followed by another explosion outside the stadium near a second entrance.

The attack on Le Petit Cambodge was just the beginning of a series of shootings at other restaurants in Paris including La Belle Equipe and La Bonne Biere. Into the later hours of the night, the Bataclan, a concert hall, was besieged by terrorists. This resulted in a major hostage situation and multiple deaths inside the Bataclan.

A few minutes past midnight, French forces fought back to take control of the Bataclan and freed the 100 hostages inside. Three of the terrorists are believed to have been killed by their own explosive devices.

The description of what the hostages witnessed while being held captive inside the concert venue is enough for one to realize that this night will never escape the minds of Parisians who became involved in this disaster. Across the world countries turned red, white, and blue to share the grief and solidify their support for all of France. President Obama rightfully so described the incident as an “attack on all humanity.” In these dark times, it is important for each of us to stand in solidarity with the French people and pray for their wellbeing.

Recap of ‘The Exodus’

Disintegrated clothing, trails of tears, turbulent childhoods- this is an everyday reality for the multiple Syrian refugees witnessing a war fought in front of their humble homes. The solution is escape. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 3 million Syrians have fled to Syria’s neighbors Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. However, the continent of Europe did not fully respond to this ‘exodus’ until the end of September, and many are beginning to question why.

Europe has closed its eyes far too long to the bloody civil war, and tried to keep the suffering of millions of Syrians outside of its iron doors. However, the forces of political and moral conscience suddenly knocked on these doors seeking for a response- a response to the 3-year old Kurd, whose life was claimed by the plight of this crisis. The image of this toddler reached the trenches of our hearts as it acted as a wake-up call to those who take freedom for granted. Nevertheless, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, displayed her political role during this movement by setting aside a common fear of these migrants and replacing it with compassion and empathy. This was fulfilled when German crowds welcomed the resilient migrants with effervescent cheering and chanting. Hence, Germany, during this moment in history, remains an exemplar of hope and courage.

Although this triumphant moment is heart-warming, it raises serious economic and social problems within Europe. For example, Germans and other European nations will have their culture and traditions violently shaken by these ‘aliens’, and  have burdening economic outcomes, as well as sparks of dissonance within the populaces. However, there is heated debate on whether or not Europe should continue to build more barriers, or manage the pressure and risk of handling these migrants with hope for peace in society.The answer comes with a sense of a new perspective towards the migrants and their hosts.

Throughout history we can see that Syrians have “a well -founded fear of persecution”, and to help them is an evident moral duty Europe and the world must fulfill. Although Europe is enveloped by poverty and chaos across its borders, they must acknowledge the need for workers to pay and provide for the retirement of its citizens. The fundamental solution is the influx of migrants. However, to reach this grandiose goal of economic stability in a socialist society, Europeans need to start with the creation of a safe environment for the migrants. This means protected havens, funded UN agencies, and properly functioning education systems- not just roofs in the desert.

Regardless of the blurring social boundaries, the new dimension of morality Europe is witnessing everyday calls for significant changes in the world as a whole. However, this global reality cannot be achieved without adversity. Although many will say it has been more than a month since this crisis broke out, and the refugees are retreating back, we must not forget their profound suffering, their undeniable spirit, and their unconditional sadness leaving home. Along with the pain that is crushing, exquisite, and infinite, the pain causes them to tremble with fear. I deeply hope that when you look at another post of a Syrian refugee on “Humans of New York”, you will have the temerity to understand how it feels to be born in a different way than you are. One individual, European, African, or American can alter or even save a Syrian refugee’s life. Hence, we must acknowledge that human empathy fused with action can change lives in ways you can never imagine.

Is America in Danger?

There is a lot of talk about terrorism. After 2001, when the war on terrorism was declared, security in the U.S. had dramatically increased, and continues to do so.
But now it is reaching new extents. The U.S. has to be on the lookout for ISIS. Although this is well-known, recently, it is said that this aggressive group has been trying to breach through American cyber defense and attack the energy grid. There had been hack attempts at a conference of American energy firms on Wednesday. Although the exact details are not known, it is said that ISIS is behind it.
But looking at the positive side, the attempted break-ins have been completely unsuccessful. As of now, the ISIS group lacks the capabilities to do this kind of job. They hardly have the necessary sophisticated technology.
But what they lack in tools, they could very well make up in intent.
There is undoubtedly an option that they could simply buy the abilities.  The FBI is anxious over this idea. This terrorist organization, or its allies, could buy detrimental software to execute the plan. And of course this attack could range from minor to pretty severe. An attack on a power grid could very well shut down progress and businesses. This “mess-up” could interfere the flow of energy to our homes as well.
Unfortunately, this situation is not restricted to such radicals. Domestic groups could very well do the same. At the same time, it is important to remember the low probability of such events. It is difficult to go through with such a plan. It would take a very large group of advanced, knowledgeable, and highly qualified technicians as well as finesse in such matters to hack  the energy grid. And even if this does happen, it would most likely be in a small section of the area.
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Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Talks Stall Due to Increasing Complications

After another round of meetings in Hawaii, it was reported that negotiations between several representatives of Pacific Rim countries had not succeeded in closing one of the biggest possible free-trade talks in history. The Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb stated that the deal was, “..98% complete, but we haven’t concluded it.” Supposedly, Australia had “walked out” on finishing the deal after being unable to negotiate an entrance into US dairy markets. These setbacks are merely the latest of many that are challenging the completion of this free trade agreement that has the ability to span a large portion of the world economy. The implementation of this agreement is in the interest of the Obama administration and the US government as it would provide the United States a much-needed financial pivot into Asia in order to counteract spreading Chinese influence in the region as well as provide a financial boost to American markets. Nevertheless, the deal has various opponents who are claiming that if passed, the deal will have adverse impacts on important issues like healthcare, Investor-State Arbitration, and intellectual property.

In June 2015, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine expressed concern that various clauses concerning copyright laws pertaining to pharmaceutical drugs could affect healthcare in numerous countries. According to the article, the TPP had the potential to prevent the production of cheaper generic drugs through stricter patent laws. This would create a risk in developing countries like Vietnam, where a large portion of the population cannot afford expensive “brand name” drugs and instead relies on cheaper drugs. This could also affect developed countries like America as  state sponsored healthcare systems like Medicare and Medicaid would be forced to buy the previously mentioned brand name drugs, thereby raising the price of medical care. Arguments have arose against the TPP over concerns of increasing healthcare costs and it seems to be that this hurdle will prove difficult to get over.

Another controversial aspect of the agreement includes the writing concerning Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Simply put, ISDS allows a foreign company to sue member countries of the TPP for money in cases where they could argue that future profits were lost due to government policy, effectively circumventing government law and receiving money for it. It is no surprise that countries would be reluctant to agree to this provision after hearing about Occidental Exploration and Production Company vs. The Republic of Ecuador, in which Ecuador was ordered to pay approximately $1.76 billion in reparations to an American oil company. ISDS has been present in previous free trade agreements between other countries and has been an extremely contentious topic due to the fact that it can overcome government law in the name of free trade. Therefore, it is no surprise that TPP member and negotiators are cautious when dealing with this problematic law.

Despite the aforementioned worrisome parts of the TPP, the most questionable provision is arguably the Intellectual Property Chapter. This part of the agreement requires that global intellectual property rules be rewritten in a more restrictive format, like the United States’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). An obligation like this would require countries to place liabilities on internet intermediaries like Google and Facebook and thereby restrict privacy and expression of users. It would also compel the extension of copyright laws, suppressing any possible innovations. And last but not least, it would adopt criminal sanctions for any copyright infringements not done for “commercial purposes” (That means that the police really will arrest you for illegally downloading that Beyonce song).

It is no question that the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement poses a multitude of risks to the countries that it seeks to facilitate free trade with. Yet, the important thing to ask ourselves as people affected by global actions is, “Is it worth it?” Will the increasing globalization of trade ultimately harm or help us? Living in the USA, I can see that many of the things I use on a daily basis like my phone, my clothes, even my food, are the products of an world that is growing smaller through increased trade. I can see that free trade between countries can raise the standard of living and I can see that it is extremely beneficial to the economy. But it should not empower the businesses and corporations that control production to restrict basic human rights like freedom of expression nor should it allow a business to dodge the law for profit. If the TPP cares more about protecting a business’s ability to increase profits through economic liberalization instead of allowing people of all countries to mutually benefit from trade, then in my humble opinion, it should not be supported by anyone

History Should Not Repeat Itself

When hearing “The United States of America”, various phrases may occupy your mind, ranging from incomparable justice to detrimental obesity. After all, our precious nation is known for unique actions and manifold events, and one, rather vicious yet unforgettable, action that our nation executed was on August 6, 1945. Several historians, scientists, and soldiers attribute the titles of “The Day the World Changed Forever” and “Japan’s Terrible Destruction” to this date. August 6, 1945 is the day that the United States of America bombed the Japanese city of Hiroshima, as part of a bellicose movement during the World War II.

The first atomic bomb, the American B-29, was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The deadly bomb had abruptly, within milliseconds, killed 80,000 people; anyone who was within a one-mile radius of the bomb had been immediately vaporized and transformed into carbon instantaneously due to the intense heat, undergoing a painless yet extremely abrupt death. This gargantuan explosion had unfortunately wiped out ninety percent of the city’s population, and those who had luckily managed to survive, suffered numerous third-degree burns and various other wounds/ burns throughout their entire body. However, even though the bomb finished making its vastly detrimental effect, deaths continued. Thousands of people passed away later on due to the exposure of severe radiations. Furthermore, for the next several generations and decades, deformed babies were being born as a result of the radiations. Despite suffering thousands of deaths, Japan refused to surrender and exactly three days later, a second B-29 atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 40,000 people. Afterwards, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s unconditional surrender in the devastating and global World War II through a radio address on August 15, 1945, referring to the injurious and deadly power of the “new and most cruel bomb.”

Unfortunately, many people do not realize and fathom the deadly effects of an atomic bomb, and with the current advances in technology, powerful countries, such as the United States of America, Russia, France, China, Israel, United Kingdom, India, North Korea, and Pakistan are the few countries in the world that contain atomic bombs- and these bombs are not similar to the American B-29 bomb in any way. With constant advances in engineering, technology, and science in the previous decades, modern atomic bombs are approximately hundred times more powerful and deadlier than the B-29 bomb. In fact, the world has accumulated so much nuclear arsenal that the entire Earth can be completely annihilated multiple times! Astonishing, right?! The B-29 explosions in Japan undoubtedly serve a grim reminder of the danger of nuclear war. They educate the public on how devastating these atomic bombs are and definitely admonish the upcoming generations that the use of atomic bombs should be precluded as they have catastrophic consequences.

Clearly, we, as in all of humanity, have to learn from our mistakes to preclude them from reoccurring. As the banal cliche puts it “Those who don’t read history are condemned to repeat it.” All in all, mankind should not be subjected to this ordeal ever again, and thus, the public’s education is downright critical in order to ensure that history is not repeated, with its disastrous effects.

Ubiquitous Shortage of Dihydrogen Monoxide

Record-high levels of snow for Boston. Unusually slow start of spring for eastern US. Bare-capped mountains in the West. Lakes, streams, and reservoirs running dry in California, Taiwan, and the rest of the world.

Recently, similar to Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) who had called for mandatory water rationing to combat one of the worst drought in California history, legislators from New Taipei City, Taipei, Taoyuan, and other major cities in Taiwan have also ordered similar rationing. Taiwan, if one does not know, is an island-nation of about 14000 square miles off the coast of Mainland China in the East China Sea. Its isolated geographic location and small size pits the 23 million living on the island a serious dilemma–to rain or not to rain, that is the question. Because it is so small, the rivers and streams need rain, and more so, monsoon or typhoon-esque rain to stay flowing and to provide adequate water supply for the 23 million living there. However, with typhoons come damage, and frequently, billions of dollars and hundreds of lives of damage. So when it comes a year when Mother Nature “cooperates” and gives Taiwan a break, water shortages and devastating rationing laws come into effect the next year. But when a strong typhoon comes, it causes expensive damage but brings a year of water to the island. So it’s question for Taiwan: Are the opportunity costs of typhoon damages worth a year without water shortage?

However, this also brings up the issue of water-conservation to the rest of the world. We are at a crossroads. Global warming and climate change has made its mark on Earth already (receding glaciers in the North Pole and Antarctica, growing ozone hole, more terrifying natural disasters across the globe, erratic tornado seasons for the American Midwest, and unusually cold winters and warm summers). Nations are fighting over precious resources, religion, nuclear arms race, and more. Economic recessions have also spanned throughout nations with the gap between rich and poor widening. Yet our desires for the best technology and greed have been unending.

So is this what our future holds? Desires and greed fueling an infinite fight for necessary resources and spoiling our finite planet Earth. Therefore, we must act now.  We must begin to learn to control our desires before it is too late. We must re-define our needs and wants. Do we really need that new iPhone? Or check our phones 24/7? Or is it time to slow down our lives and reevaluate our lifestyles, appreciating more of what we have than craving for more? It’s up to us to decide.

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The Road Ahead for the Newly Elected Nigerian President

On, March 31st , an unprecedented feat occurred amid all the chaos that the populace of Nigeria was undergoing. It was the very first time, that an opposing party had defeated the current incumbent party in the democratic elections. The candidate who took four tries to win the presidency was a man named Muhammadu Buhari. Nigeria also held one of the most tumultuous campaign seasons, for this particular one had been extended by six weeks. This was mainly due to personal attacks as well as cross-party discrepancies. However, the result ended with Buhari winning by about 2.1 million more votes than his adversary Goodluck Jonathan.

Though the tight vote had sparked bitter dissonance between the two candidates and their supporters, the ultimate message that they both wanted to send to their hopeful citizens was to accept the outcomes of this fateful election. Goodluck Johnathan even said after the loss,”Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian.”

Even though Buhari had evidently won the election, it was done through a great expense.This was something that was a pivotal phase in his career, and inflicted great wounds in terms of corruption , and his people. In 1985, Buhari was the military head of his northern state, and was overthrown in a violent coup that was lead by General Ibrahim Babangida, as well as a host of members of the Supreme Military Council (SMC). His detention lasted until 1988 in Benin city.

As a rejuvenated democrat, he pursued the presidency continuously in every election starting from 2003. This 72 year old man was, and still is campaigning to establish zero tolerance policies for corruption, and plans to decimate a supposedly volatile group of Boko Haram Islamists. This eminent group in the northern regions of Nigeria had killed and kidnapped thousands of citizens.

A clear-cut advantage that Buhari holds is that he has tremendous military experiences. Hence, he can fight the renegades of civil society. However, to confront the stagnant economic growth he said will be a much more strenuous task at hand. The plummeting oil prices,stimulated such growth , as well as the record lows that the Naira (Nigerian currency) had slumped to. The more impregnable problem that is most likely approaching, is the desire for the countries share of wealth in oil. Nevertheless, there is still a resolute belief in the nation’s democracy, as well as political maturity, which Buhari had evidenced in his victory speech on April 1st.

Mohammadu Buhari has undeniable faith in his people, and sees glory in every possibility despite his challenge of managing expectations. Nigeria is a country that is stricken with shock and overwhelming hope that a new leader has finally emerged to solve the conceivable issues facing this country’s pastors.