Thursday, February 28, 2013

Justice for Genocide in Bangladesh

The full article can be found here:

During now Bangladesh's fight for independence from Pakistan in 1971, a genocide was perpetrated by the Pakistani army and anti-independence political groups, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 1-3 million people.

The article is about the renewed push for justice for these crimes through a huge apolitical protest that has remained peaceful so far.

But I'm not confident that the movement will stay this way. They call for justice, but it's not what they want. They want vengeance. When the tribunal handed down a life sentence to Abdul Quader Mollah through proper judicial proceedings, there was outrage that he was to be kept alive and demonstrations were held calling for his hanging. The government is siding with the protesters for now, and this event prompted the Bangladesh parliament to propose an amendment to the law that created the tribunal to allow for parliament to appeal the court's decisions.

If the government continues to bend to the protesters' will, it will be an uncivilized witch hunt under the guise of proper legal proceedings with potential retaliation from Jamaat, the political party responsible for the violence in the 70's and the target of much of the "justice." However, if the government were to ignore the crowd, they may take justice into their own hands and violence may result. 

Either way, the protest may threaten stability in the country.

Violence of Indigenous Women in Canada

                In Northern British Columbia, Canada there has been a string of violent acts against indigenous women.  This area of the Canada has seen its fair share of violent acts, as one highway, Highway 16 or the ‘Highway of Tears’, is known for murders and disappearances.  Recently, it has been uncovered that when indigenous women of the region come forth, with great courage on their part, they are not met with the standards I would hope the police would respond with.  The police and especially the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have either dismissed reports, not really looking into the cases as much as they should or are committing violent acts against the women themselves. Many women who have come forth have been met with physical and/or sexual assault from police officers.  One woman was asked if she would like to be charged with assaulting an officer or beaten.  Another claims to have been raped in the nearby woods by police officers.  Another reported a police man made things worse during a domestic call by breaking her daughter’s arm, a victim.  This is astonishing to me, as the police are supposed to be there to help and protect the women and everyone in the region.  This has been brought to the world’s attention through one of the committees of the United Nations, but small changes have been made and have not changed the behavior of these police officers.  Personally, I think this is appalling and should be addressed very quickly.  This is not something that should be happening.  Hopefully, the Canadian government will finally act and come up with a solution to stop this from happening. 

Syria death toll announced by UN human rights officials

This article is about how the Syrian death toll is approximated to be approaching 70,000.  In January it was reported that the count was 60,000 and therefore this shows a dramatic increase in about two months.  The Syrian war started when citizens of Syria demanded more freedom from their government.  The Free Syria Army was formed and although they have suffered casualties, the largest part of the death toll are civilians.  I think this article relates somewhat to Running the Rift.  Although this was a fight between two 'tribes' in Rwanda who wanted power, it was still civilians who mainly got hurt because people were fighting for their freedom.  But this does not have a direct link to genocide however is does connect to human rights.  The government is taking severe measures to suppress its civilians from having the rights they deserve.  This is the idea that America was formed upon. Freedom.  I think this is one of the main reasons that America has been one of the main activists in trying to keep peace in Syria while resolving the issue.  No person should be denied their rights and this is why the UN has a human rights department.  However it seems that only USA is trying to stop the efforts with little aid from other countries.  It brings up a common principle of why we study history, which is to learn from our mistakes.  In the past, countries have turned a blind eye on things like this that happen in countries however now it seems that there is some involvement and some people are trying to stop the suppression of human rights.

Ahead of referendum, UN experts call on Zimbabwe to respect fundamental rights

Link to the article: 
“Zimbabwe must ensure that fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and association are respected in the run up to its constitutional referendum.” In UN’s position, it’s not easy to demand other countries to practice human rights. The UN has its principle of not interfere in the domestic affairs of any country. No matter how big the human rights issue in Zimbabwe is, the UN can’t do anything physically to change it because it’s only an outsider.
There are many human rights issues with the government of Zimbabwe, according to Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations, such as violating the rights to shelter, food, freedom of movement and residence, freedom of assembly and the protection of the law. There are child soldiers and discrimination against women. These are the problems we can’t imagine as a first world country. But the people in third world countries might not think of them as too big a problem because they are so used to it. Also, they never know how the people in other countries live; they are not educated to be informed about the human rights that they are supposed to have.
Who would have to time and the strength to care about their rights when they are striving to survive? How could the practice of human rights to be assured when they really don’t have food to eat or shelters to sleep? I imagine myself in that situation, where I don’t know if I will have my next meal and I don’t know if my home will be at the same place tomorrow, I don’t think I worry about my freedom of speech or anything above survival.
The list of human rights was made by the leaders from first world countries. Just like rich people don’t understand how poor people live, they don’t know how practical these “basic” human rights are in third world countries where all that people want is only surviving.  Instead of commending the Zimbabwe government to ensure the fundamental human rights in the country, what the UN really should do is to financially help the people in the country to have a better life. Only not having to worry about surviving can the people pay more attention to their other rights. That’s also how a society develop and build up. 

How could technology help protecting human rights

Here's the link to the article:

Nowadays, technology has been developed rapidly. With these technological advances come challenges and opportunities with specific meanings for human rights. For example, witness, who are concerned about their privacy and personal safety are all been recorded and tracked. The regional extremists sometimes use the documentation to track them and kill them. However, on the other side, people could also tracked, aggregated, and mapped footage of the crimes in some dangerous areas. Technology works for both sides. We should make science and technology develop under the guidance of sound ethics and bring benefits to human beings. 

In the article, Striffolino, who is currently serving on Amnesty International’s Crisis Prevention and Response Unit, a global human rights organization, points out the importance of technology in investigating and exposing abuses, fighting against the violators, and working to protect people wherever truth, justice and freedom are denied. For instance, they are using the satellite imagery to monitor the armed conflict situations. But, they also encountered tons of problems. Some local governments only give them partial access to the information, and the region’s geography is also hard to trudge through. All these are preventing them to justify the right. 

In spite of the prob;ems that they are facing, they are trying to involve these high technology evidence in the court and brought the criminals to justice. With the technology they have, lack of information could no longer be an excuse of doing nothing. Besides, Amnesty is also trying to get more university students involved in the program. There is too many human rights violation issues happening all around the world. So, there are many opportunities for the students as well.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Is technology the answer to India's failed food system?


Recently, in my biology class, we were talking about the agricultural boom-especially in developing nations of India and China. But here is the thing. Malnutrition is nothing new for many Indians. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2011 Global Hunger Index, the upshot of this perennial problem is that about 60 million children in India are underweight and malnourished, while 21 percent of the population as a whole general is malnourished. This is the paradox of plenty in India’s food system. Spurred by agricultural innovation and generous farm subsidies, India now grows so much food that it has a bigger grain stockpile than any country except China, but still, one fifth of the country is malnourished. Indeed, one in eight people are hungry, over a billion tons of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. That means much of the food produced is never actually consumed. Vast amounts of food get spoiled in the field or damaged in processing or transit or discarded due to spoilage or exceeding shelf life. Thus, it is critical to monitor the safety and efficiency of India’s food supply chain.
How can India overcome this? Well, although not a complete answer, technology is the key to solve this puzzle. Information technology can help greatly in solving issues related to hunger, and through innovative initiatives like India Food Banking Network (IFBN), India can bring together technology, logistics, IT, and the involvement of the local community to feed their own community. Fortunately, a smarter global food system – one that is more connected, instrumented and intelligent – is at hand. By using track and trace technology, including 2D and 3D barcode and radio frequency identification (RFID) which allows us to track food from farm to plate. A smart IT system based on open standards can allow farmers and their trading partners to access and share information on food including farm of origin, the type of feed used, date of harvest, and the like. Such a system can help differentiate a grower’s agricultural exports in the marketplace – a smart business decision. Certainly, India needs to make significant progress in lowering levels of hunger and under-nutrition. Technology can be a facilitator to that.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Indigenous Women

In northern British Columbia, indigenous women and girls are, according to this article, being harassed and abused by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada’s police force. When girls or women encounter police officers or call on them for help, they are instead being physically hurt, raped, or even killed. As the article mentions, this is an extreme violation of Human Rights, as the women are not being given the protection from the police that they have the right to. The Human Rights Watch organization has looked into the situation and has contacted Canada’s government in hopes of helping these indigenous women and girls.
Something should be done about this situation. It appears that countless cases have been reported since the 1960s. These indigenous women should not have to fear for their lives, especially when the violators are authoritative figures that they should be able to count on. Instead of calling on the police for help, the women have to avoid them. Police officers are hired to help their citizens, not hurt them. It seems that the violators have forgotten their mission, and it is incredibly sad to hear the abuse that they are dealing to the women.
Equally as alarming is the fact that Canada’s government is not taking action to stop the abusive policing. For years now, the Human Rights Watch organization has been contacting the Canadian government, but yet the violence still continues. The number of women and girls that are being hurt may not be a very large amount compared to those of other human rights violations, but the numbers should not be a limit. Regardless if twenty or twenty-thousand women are being abused, the act is both illegal and immoral. Action should be taken, as these women need to be helped.  

By: Erika Staskevicius

Friday, February 22, 2013

Right to change your nationality? Not as easy as it sounds.

          The 15th article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights suggests that no person should be denied the right to change their nationality. In spite of the fact, there are many that just don't get the opportunity. It might be assumed that most illegal immigrants become naturalized citizens, at least in the United States. This, however, is not completely true. Legal immigrants must reside within the United States for at least 5 years before starting the naturalization process. Illegal immigrants are subject to detainment and can be deported at anytime after their visa or other methods of allotted time in the United States has expired. The process for them is less likely to lead to citizenship.
         The reason for addressing this issue is because I have a couple of cousins who have come to this country by visa. Both overstayed their allowed time and tried to become citizens. After about 15 years, one of them succeeded. The other is still trying. The probable reason for the difference in their situations, despite them coming at the same time? One became trained in nursing, the other became a hairdresser. The naturalization process for illegal immigrants is different than that of the legal immigrants from what I've been told by them. The process takes much longer than 5 years and is determined on the basis of interview rather than meeting requirements normally given to legal immigrants. The 15th article isn't perfect, it could still use some work.

Death Penalty

My blog post is in response to the post by student Jinwon Pyo.  To kill, or not to kill?  That is the question.  Would executing an individual prove to be of more overall benefit than permanent imprisonment?  There are moral standards to regard, but given the wide variance of opinion, consideration in that aspect will, for the most part, be ignored.  In order to define “better’ or “worse,” black and white data will be used.

First aspect to study: does the death penalty kill criminals?  Certainly.  Are all executed peoples criminals?  No.  Just as a single person’s ability to judge is never perfect, neither is an assembly of peers’ judgment always accurate.  America has declared several past executions as “wrongful executions” of innocent peoples.  Criminal law bears the Blackstone’s Formulation, which is the principle of, “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”  With this mantra in mind, execution disregards this law by not only harming, but killing bystanders and sparing criminals without a failsafe method of determining guilt.

Second aspect to study: what are the benefits of capital punishment?  Financially, none.  Holding a person in maximum security for life is actually cheaper than the expenses placed into finalizing capital punishment.  Does capital punishment prevent crimes or ward off offenders from killing?  There has been no official evidence of decreased crime rates post-execution, nor do officials deem any correlation to the act.

Perhaps this might tread upon the line of morality, but focusing on the accused’s position, is death a preferable punishment to life reformation?  Well, firstly, what is a punishment?  It is not the platitude of “an-eye-for-an-eye.”  That is, rather, revenge, which many seek as a comfort for loss from one convicted of a “death deserving” crime.  A punishment is the consequence of a negative action that deters the offender from committing the act again and teaches why such an action was wrong.  Does an executed individual learn from his or her crime?  Does an executed individual receive a punishment that fits the deed?  No.  A life cannot be traded for a life.  The relatively short time spent in death row is not a suitable response to what an individual’s wrongful actions.  Rather, a lifetime of imprisonment converts the prisoner’s life into one constantly reflected in the permanence of his or her crimes.'s_formulation

Torture: Entertainment vs Reality

It is confusing to think that torture has always been a part of our pop culture and has been enjoyed for its entertainment value by so many, yet at the same time, it’s a subject that is looked down upon by the same group of people. Entertainment and reality are different, but in this article, the documentary-like movie, Zero Dark Thirty, does enough to blur the boundaries between these two mind-sets.
“Torture is not only about inflicting acute pain, but is a calculated and systematic dismantling of a person’s identity and humanity,” as the article states. If a person chooses to take away someone else’s freedom, he/she knowingly loses some or all of his/her freedom. That’s the way it has always been. There was an interesting article I read once about a doctor that believed in the death penalty. This doctor believed that life imprisonment was worse because this sentence had the prisoner suffer for the duration of a lifetime, whereas the death penalty was fast and “humane,” as he put it. Who is to say that his opinion is at fault? Who is to say that torture experienced through life imprisonment is worse than the torture of terrorist, which have in fact led to results – results that have securred physical and mental safety of people all around the world? Every question has a gray area and should be taken case by case.
Interestingly, in the case of the events that took place in Zero Dark Thirty, these so-called “terrorists” weren’t doing this as a “crime,” but believed, or was fooled to believe, that their actions were backed by religious motives. They believe violence is a viable means of protecting their religion and, therefore, freedom. Their culture is vastly different from the culture of Americans. So how do Americans qualify to make these decision? As a follow up question, “How do we quantify these facts.”
No decision will be unanimous with such a controversial topic as torture. But in terms of this article, I believe that films like Zero Dark Thirty should be praised for bringing us the other side of the story. This movie keeps reality “real” and allows for the ignorant to confront their ignorance.

the problem of child labor and forced labor in Columbia

The number of consumed coffee and chocolate products has been drastically increasing since franchise coffee companies such as Starbucks and Caribou Coffee started to expend their business markets. While the large enterprises are making profits by producing their products with low price of raw materials, labors supplying the materials are unfairly paid for their wages. Jeff Nall, the writer of the article ‘Combating Slavery in Coffee and Chocolate Production,’ said that the life of “Cocoa laborers” is the life of “modern-day slaves.” According to Tulane University, there were more than 1.8 million children in West Africa involving in cultivating cocoa in March 2011. The children labor joylessly hard at work collecting and cutting open the cocoa pods that contain cocoa seeds. In addition, they are engaged in heavy manual labor, using machetes, and carrying large loads. The unfair wage is not the only problem; the problem in unfair treatment is also the problem. Children workers failing to work fast enough are beaten with branches and bicycle chains. Children attempting to escape from their employers have been bound with rope and beaten so severely scars remain. It is true that such a labor system economically benefits the coffee or coffee producers and their consumers. However, the human right of “coffee labors” has been ignored. Because both groups of consumers and producers look for high quality with low prices, the producers have to find and employ labors with paying low wage and poor working conditions. As time goes by, more and more number of consumers purchase the “unfairly produced goods” with high prices that producers want to take. And the large enterprises pretend as they provide high privilege and high quality of products to their consumers.
If we, consumers, want to be wise in our purchase, we need to consider the labors’ human rights.

Uploading Offensives Material: Illegal?

The introduction of the internet has greatly increased the ease of communicating between individuals.  This brings many advantages to internet users; however it also poses many potential problems such as the availability of sensitive material.  This article describes an Egyptian, Saber, who was put in jail for three years because he uploaded a Californian video portraying “Mohammed in an unfavorable light.” In addition to this, the police failed to protect his family from an outraged mob.  The article is of a letter from the host organization to the president of Egypt, arguing that the harsh verdict was due to discrimination, and that it should be reversed.

I think it was wrong that Saber was arrested for uploading an unpopular video, as that was within his right to free speech. As Egypt signed the “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” which protects the freedom of speech, he legally had that right. I understand that the government wouldn't want the majority of its population to be criticized, however, uploading an unoriginal video doesn't make him guilty of “‘blasphemy and contempt of religion.”’ He denied supporting the message of the video, which begs the question: Does taking advantage of the technological ability to upload someone else’s work mean that you support it? I think that it depends on where it was uploaded and what context it was placed in.  If he had commented: “See what terrible things they say in America”, below the video, I might agree that he didn't support the anti-Islamism ideas.  However, as there is not more information I can’t make any informed conclusions as to his true position.  

Secondly, the police should have provided sufficient protection for his family when they requested aid.  It’s the police’s duty to maintain order and uphold the law for everyone, not just some people.  Thus, not everyone’s rights were respected equally.   

Who Owns Our Data?

Date Published: February 16, 2013

Imagine yourself as a student walking into the university library and tapping your wrist against the sensor to open the door and get access. Better yet, imagine preparing for a trip to your doctor and leaving behind your wallet, your ID, and your medical records, and packing only… your body! Todd Coleman presented a new technology that allows machines to communicate with the body. This is an “electronic tatoo” that is the size of a postage stamp and the thickness of a human hair that can be used to monitor electrical signals from the body in a non-invasive manner. This device has remarkable applications such as monitoring laboring woman and seizure-prone infants. Most likely, technology is already being developed to not only monitor, but store and transfer data.

This poses important ethical, legal, and social questions. Who will own this data? Will the patient be allowed to access it themselves? Companies who want to prove or disprove symptoms and effects of their medication will want to perform statistics on large amounts of data. Will doctors gather their patients’ data and sell it for profit? Our data is being threatened in many ways, and endangering important human rights. 

These devices could be developed not only capable of extracting data from the human body but also inputting data into the brain. Although the article poses important futuristic questions such as “Will hackers be able to control our thoughts through these new kinds of interfaces?” I think it obviates the first use that would come to mind in any new technology, profit. We can see this example in other data collecting technologies such as social networks. Large social-networking sites, such as Facebook, are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Facebook uses it for directing advertisement and for trading ‘Likes’ and ‘posts’ data to companies in return for profit. I recommend reading this article ‘Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality’ by Tim Berners-Lee to learn more about this.

Today, there are no global health benefits coming from all that data. In the other hand, data artist Jer Thorp imagines what uses we can devise from this kind of wealth of information. He created a model of how people are traveling around the world based on Twitter data collected over a 36 hour period. He proposed that this data is very useful for scientists for learning how diseases spread. In the case of our medical records monitored through these new “electronic tatoos”, the primary use will be to aid a patients’ health. But what will happen after the treatment is done? I believe that, as data making machines, we should be under control of who has access to and what it will be used for. 

There are several points I think are important in the control of a patient’s continually updating health data. First is the location storage, the access, and finally editing permission. With the success of the internet, it might be possible that our electronic tattoos be constantly synchronized with a ‘cloud’, online server. Hackers might be able to access your data, or only the people you grant access to. In a time of crisis, I find corporations very untrustworthy of my data. Perhaps a pharmaceutical company could edit the data of a large group of people to indicate that they are positive in a disease. In turn, these people will have to purchase medications to treat this disease, thus increasing profit for the pharmaceutical companies. Therefore, I believe it is important to never let our guards down when it comes to fighting for our rights. Laws are constantly changing, some happen under our noses, being an active citizen will help protect your rights.

Advances in Brain-Machine Engineering - Video

Video Published on February 17, 2013

Visualizing the world's Twitter data - Jer Thorp
NASA Student Ambassador
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Mechanical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology