Saturday, July 12, 2014

Russia: The Anti-Activist State

On February 20th, 2014, Ruslan Kutaev, head of the Peoples of the Caucasus’ Assembly, was arrested and charged with having “a large amount of heroine” on his person upon arrest. This arrest came two days after Kutaev publicly criticized an order handed down by Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. This order was one that prohibited memorial events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the expulsion of one of the Russian peoples known as the Chechens. The Chechens were deported en masse to Central Asia on February 23, 1944 during the reign of Stalin. Kutaev was upset because the order reflected a lack of commitment on the part of the authorities to safeguarding historical memory. 2 days after making that statement, Kutaev was arrested.
            Kutaev knew right away that his comments had angered those in power. The very next morning after Kutaev had delivered his statement, Kutaev received a call from the head of Kadyrov’s administration saying that Kadyrov was upset with Kutaev’s comments and wished to speak with him. Afraid for his life, immediately after the call Kutaev left his home for the village of Gekhi, where his relatives live. Kutaev was arrested the next day at 2 p.m. by around 30 law enforcement or security officials. Witnesses have said that upon hearing the noise of the approaching officials, Kutaev stepped outside of his home and was instantly put in a car by officials and was driven away. Kutaev was placed in custody 11 hours after being arrested with bruises covering his body.
            Kutaev’s improper arrest and treatment by law enforcement shows the risks that are taken when one speaks out against government orders. Kutaev was framed and beaten for simply disagreeing with an order made by the government of the region of Chechnya. When Kutaev was allowed to speak with his lawyer privately, he wrote notes to his lawyer claiming that “on the day of his arrest unidentified personnel beat him, subjected him to electric shocks, and threatened harm to his family members to force Kutaev to confess to drug possession with intent to sell.” Kutaev was obviously strong-armed into confessing to a crime that was forced on him by the local government. This appalling treatment of political dissent shows that Russia still has a great deal of progress to make in the area of political abuses of power.

Will Walter


Friday, July 11, 2014

Electronic Information Rights

The definition of privacy is forever changing in the United States. The right to privacy is protected by the fourth amendment, but as today’s era of social media and data storage comes into bloom, there is significant debate over what is private and what is not. The Bill of rights was added to the constitution over 200 years ago, and has done a very good job so far of protecting the citizens of the United States. This clause was added to the constitution to guarantee the citizens of the United States some basic human rights. The Supreme Court recently took a case on whether or not a search warrant was necessary or not in order for police officers to search through a smart phone. The article can be found here. Before the Supreme Court ruled in favor of this new rule, smart phones were considered a piece of evidence found on a suspect, like a piece of paper with a note or legal documents. The new ruling makes it necessary for the police to obtain a warrant before searching through a phone. This is to help prevent self-incrimination.
 I personally believe that this is a step in the right direction. The right to privacy is one of the most basic of the human rights, and it is also one of the most violated here in the United States. Over the last several months it has come to light how much The United States Government invades and collects information about our daily lives. This new law explicitly forbids the government for what should have been implied. This new law also highlights both the greatest strength and weakness of the Bill of Rights. They are extremely vague. Our founding fathers wrote them so that they could continue to make sense with modern times, but sometimes they are helplessly trivialized by the rapid expansion of technology. As a result, many questionable court cases have arisen about what exactly is protected under the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court continues to settle these controversies as they arise, but in order to completely protect the American people, there must be some Major legal reform.
As the world moves into the Information age, one of the most import human rights that can be protected is the privacy of information. Whether it is a Cell Phone or a form of social media, the world around us is evolving at a rapid rate. In order to protect electronic Privacy, a new system is needed to protect the American people. Our best hope is that whatever this new law may be, it has just as much of a profound and lasting impact on the United States as the Original Bill of Rights had during the birth of this grand country.

3D Printing: Good or Bad?

Technology advances exponentially every day as more and more bright thinkers innovate our tomorrow, but will this hurt our fundamental values in the long run? Will technology eventually go beyond what is human and right? Has it already? At this point, no one really knows, or really, no one can agree. Whether or not we think technology has gone too far, we all know that it definitely has the capability to.
3D printing has been a hot topic in the science field for being extremely cheap to make durable parts. Although it is still quite expensive (decent ones in the low thousands), 3D printers have become more and more accessible to the common household and are expected to be sold in department stores in the near future. There’s even a makeup printer on its way to the shelves:

Now, fuchsia blush isn’t going to take away your human rights, but think of all the possible things that could. Right now people are investing in a 3D printed small and compact drone that can fly to remote areas, deliver packages, or even conduct search rescues all for a relatively inexpensive price.
A 3-D-printed drone created by engineers from the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
Although there are so many possibilities where this drone can excel and help people, if put in the wrong person’s hands, it could lead to dangerous violations of privacy. Giving regular citizens the power to have 3D printers that could make drones (or anything for that matter) can allow people easy access to invade someone’s home or private territory. Imagine how easy it would be to follow people around or even video record them without them knowing. By making 3D printers easily accessible to the public, we make it ten times easier to let people go too far.

The real question is whether or not the pros outweigh the cons. Even though 3D printing could allow people to make weapons or other harmful materials, they could also make life more convenient and cost-efficient and even save lives. I believe that 3D printing is headed in the right direction, but it needs to be monitored for it can definitely get out of hand. The issue is that this is something markets and governments would have a difficult time keeping under control. Only time will tell what will happen.



Civilians: The New Target

                War. The event that most humans despair, which causes them to awake every night in cold sweat. The event that haunts every generation, because it robs sons from fathers and torments mothers with images of what her child promise if he lived longer. But these parents hide these thoughts behind brave smiles as they wave farewell to their sons as they step through the terminal, ready to defend the cause which they believe in and are willingly to die for.
                At least, though, these brave soldiers accept the probability of their demise when they enrolled into the army. Today, soldiers no longer fight in lonely fields far away from towns similar to battles during the Civil War; instead, they often fight their conflicts in the middle of cities, apartments, home, parks, or any other place swarming with civilian life. The advances in weaponry, from the popular Burnside Carbine in the 1860s, which effectively shot a bullet each minute, to an AK-47, which rapidly shots bullets in seconds, creates permanent damage to unfortunate families in the war zone before the conscience can intervene. Thus, during the twentieth century, a new type of war emerged, one waged on innocent civilians caught helplessly during these armed conflicts.
               In 1900, historians estimated that civilian fatalities ranged around five percent; by the end of WW2, it climbed to sixty five percent. At the recent turn of the century, it escalated to ninety percent during the wars of the 1990s. Since then, almost four million civilians died during these conflicts, like those that persists in Afghanistan. According to a recent UN article, the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during the Afghan conflict were the leading cause of conflict-related death to civilians, escalating twenty four percent from last year statistics. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded that the first half of this year, about 1,564 civilians died, while 3,289 received injuries.  Out of these casualties, 520 were children, a thirty four percent increase since last year. Though death by IEDs remains the second leading cause of death in these regions, the third leading cause of death, suicide bombings, resulted in 583 civilian casualties. Surprisingly, those killed by government forces has been cut down by half, while anti-government attacks nearly doubled in the past couple of years.  
In this image, a minivan holds the bodies of Afghan
citizens, who were killed by American soldiers during
armed conflict.
                The failure of the Afghanistan government to provide any efficient methods of prohibiting this kind of action frustrates me the most. The Taliban claimed its attacks caused 553 civilian casualties, like they are proud for causing these kinds of horrific acts. By the action of both participating forces in armed conflict, they deprive these innocents’ right of live peacefully. But why?  What do armed forces gain for stealing these lives? Perhaps, being frighten out of their minds, soldiers shoot at everything that moves, frighten that if they do not, those that move would kill them. These types of violence that not only dominates this region, but other third world countries with deteriorating governments or approaching a civil war, causes many to live in fear for their lives.  Currently, this terror plagues my extended family in Venezuela, who witnesses these types of violence from the army to the peaceful protesters every day. If the situation becomes worse, they plan to seek refuge in Portugal in order to protect themselves.
                However, most do not have the resource to flee the violence in their country. If they survive the firefights, they head to refugee camps, hoping that the conflict does not follow them there. Then, they spend the rest of their time worrying and praying, just like soldiers’ parents do every night before they go to sleep.

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Israel-Palestine Conflict Intensifies at the Cost of Palestinian Civilian Lives

     The Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization, are engaged once again with the Israeli military in a war of bombings. Israel retaliated when the Hamas killed civilians and began using drones and planes to target over one thousand different suspected Hamas bases. After pinpointing these locations, bombers began attacking these targets. 

     Both sides began using explosives to attack the others, however Israel had a clear advantage. The military used early warning systems and computer guidance systems to evacuate any civilians in danger and destroy missiles midair. The Palestinians did not have access to such technology and paid for it with civilian lives. The Israeli military might have billions of dollars worth of bombing technology, but they cannot accurately control the explosions of their bombs. When they target the Hamas bases in the city, many bombs kill innocent civilians and even miss their primary target. So far, the bombing of Palestine has lead to around eighty to one hundred civilian deaths and approximately fourteen deaths of young children. 

     Israel has been approached and criticized by many human rights organizations in regard to the loss of civilian lives during their bombings. The United Nations human rights officials asked for a cease fire but the Israeli prime minister would not give up until the Hamas threat was quelled. 

I find it repulsive that when an industrial power is engaged in war with a third world country, the civilians suffer. Both America and Israel use “precision” airstrikes and kill many innocent people accidentally. I believe that both these nations could use their vast militaries to find a cheaper solution to eliminate targets without harming the civilians in the area. 

Yet Another Possible Sudanese Civil War


Sudan has undergone constant political turmoil since it's independence in 1956, predominately coups with a few scattered elections. Since the establishment of a government in Sudan, christian rights have been endangered due to Islamic law enacted, while also rights to life and shelter have been ceased due to political turmoil. July 9th, 2011 signified South Sudan's independence, as it seceded from Sudan due to religious differences, although a prominent oil-rich town of Abyei continues to be fought over. Recently, a DMZ buffer zone has been agreed upon by the South Sudanese President and Sudanese Prime Minister. However, the recent December conflict erupted after the vice president Marchar was removed from office, and supporters of both the ex-vice and current president clashed. The Ugandan military was eventually called in to help, and a ceasefire was instated January 1st of this year, yet violence continues.

Call to Attention

In an article off the Oxfam America website, actress Kiera Knightly speaks about the terrible conditions she saw in South Sudan. Being quite fond of Ms. Knightly, I read the article and was astounded by how much Sudan been devastated- 4 million people in need of food due to loss of harvest, due to the continual showers sweeping Sudan. 4 million people cannot find food due to the loss of their land, unable to prepare for the oncoming season because of military fighting and upheaval. Kiera met with two widowers, whom both have children to attend to, but with their husbands gone, life is unbearable for all South Sudanese families. Their rights to life have become endangered; the article mentions children forced to play by sewage, and malnutrition being the ultimate cause of death. Imagine your children playing in toxic material, while you yourself to feeble to stop them. This is the fate of Sudanese women during this political conflict. Since the conflict broke out, the right to property has also been ceased from Sudanese families.Some 10,000 people have died since the conflict, 400,000 displaced from their homes, fleeing violence between political radicals and Ugandan soldiers. Families struggle to survive as farmers cannot bring in the harvest, displaced by violence and further impeded by seasonal rains. The UN has warned that 50,000 children could die if humanitarian aid does not increase to help Sudanese citizens. This is a major crisis that we all should relate to. We have families and friends who have the right to life and property, eating plentiful in a warm home. Due to this pesky conflict, however, the citizens of Sudan have lost these inherent rights, and lose children every day as a result. The people of South Sudan should not be punished for the selfish acts of radicals whom endanger the lives of so many.

(From OxFam America)
Kiera Knightly, meeting Rebecca, mother of two, and hearing of the
hardships faced by families displaced by the turmoil.


The Fight for Women's Rights Continues

      The women’s rights battle that has been going on for years still continues today. Recently, during a conflict involving the Syrian government and armed forces, women were physically abused and tormented. The sight and thought of women being detained and tortured in Syria is utterly horrible. The worst part is that in Syria’s conflict, women are the ones being severely  punished either by getting injured or losing family members. As the article states “Women are taking on increasing responsibilities – whether by choice or due to circumstance – and they should not have to pay with intimidation, arrest, abuse, or even torture.” They are being penalized for helping out in the whole conflict, which is an absolute infringement of human rights. As noted in the article from the interviews with refugee women, they are being harassed and abused due to participating in nonviolent protests and helping needy Syrians. Along with this torment, the women in Syria are also responsible for upholding discriminatory policies such as restrictions on their dress and movement. This is directing violating several human rights along with the rights of women. Strict and immediate actions must be taken by the international communities to prevent Syrian government and armed forces from committing such violations.

Personally, it was quite disappointing reading about this, because as much as people say women have all the rights, they don’t. Yes, in some countries women have more rights than they did many years ago, but in other countries they are still being discriminated.  Due to the advancement in technology and weapons, more conflicts are occurring and women are being pushed into them without any particular reason. In Syria, women and girls are being abused simply due to the fact that they are helping others or that they are women. Their rights as human beings are taken away.  Freedoms such as freedom to dress in the way a women wants continues to be taken away in Syria and in several other countries.  Many organizations around the world are fighting for women’s rights today; however, some countries still are not taking adequate actions to solve them. I personally believe that women should be given all human rights and be treated equally. Abusing and harassing women is completely inhumane, and has to be stopped before it increases throughout the world.