Saturday, November 18, 2006

UCLA UCPD use tazer gun on Iranian-American Student

Since we have been discussing torture off late in class, I feel that this issue is very relevant to our understanding of Human Rights. Mostafa Tabatabainejad, 23, a student at UCLA did not show ID to campus police, while working in one of the university's libraries. The police then used a tazer gun on him. The excruciating video of this incident can be viewed on youtube. The link to it is below:

I could not watch the whole thing. You can clearly hear the student say that he would leave, but the police continue to abuse him. What was even more shocking was the number of students who just stood there. Yes, there were some who asked the police for their badge numbers. They yelled at the police and the police just seemed to yell back.

The video is long--over six minutes. I could not watch the whole thing. It was just too painful.

'Evil' teen sentenced to life in prison for hate crime

With all the debate over whether there are evil people or just people that commit evil acts, I found this article particularly interesting. The article tells the story of 18 year-old David Henry Tuck from Houston, Texas who was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years. He received this sentence after severely beating and sodomizing a Hispanic boy during a party while shouting “white power.” The boy nearly died during his three-month stay at the hospital. The prosecutor referred to Tuck as an “evil person” that would not be able to be rehabilitated. The defense posed questions as to whether or not Tuck’s white-supremacist views come from the influence of his skinhead older brother who is also in jail. This was not the first incident of violence for Tuck and perhaps he truly is an “evil person” and not just one that commits evil acts. Is it possible for someone who commits evil acts to change or stop such violent acts?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Iran joining the nuclear club

So Iran wants to keep their nukes. The President of Iran has come out and declared that Iran will be nearing the last stage of its nuclear research and production. What will this mean for the US, the world, and the U. N. who again is having its resolutions trampled on and ignored?

There are many questions to be asked about Iran's "need" for nuclear power plants. Why does a nation with its own large oil reserves so badly need nuclear power plants? Why would they want nuclear power, which has now been recognized as problematic, prime targets for terrorism, and creates environmental disasters with its waste? Also, why would Iran be so intent on creating another form of power, that is so controversial that both the US and UN are upset about. Not to mention Israel which has a history of destroying the nuclear aspirations of hostile nations (i.e. Iraq under Saddam, where Israel attacked a reactor with jets and destroyed it after other nations were unwilling to stop Iraq).

There are two possible reasons why Iran is so willing to create nuclear power. One may be that they want to obtain nuclear power simply for nationalistic bragging rights. They may use it as a symbol of their defiance and independence. It would be a sign to the world that Iran can achieve anything and takes orders from no one.

Much more likely though is that Iran wants to create a nuclear arms program. Why else is it so important that they obtain nuclear power. Why else would it be so important to ignore the world and do as they please. A nuclear Iran would be a counter weight to Israel in the region. It would also legitimize them in the eyes of many of the world’s nations. It would give them a pulpit to speak to the world. It would also sway the power of the Muslim countries from Saudi Arabia to Iran.

No matte what happens, Iran, in my opinion should not be allowed to become a nuclear power. If that means stricter sanctions, a blockade, or more direct action, I don't know, but a nuclear Iran is something to worry about.

The Baby Trade

How far would you go to adopt a baby?
A mother in Guatelmala had her baby taken from her right out of the hospital because attnorney Javier Oswaldo Morales claimed that she was unfit to have it because she was single and unemployed. Bascially Elivia Ramirez Cano was bribed with money to give up her baby for adoption.
There has beena growing demand for orphan babies from Latin America in both the US and Europe. In the 1980s thousands of children disappeared during the "dirty wars" that were waged on civilians in Latin America from governments. It has now been discovered that most of those children currently reside in the US, Canada, and Europe because they were taken and sold as "war orphans." Currently Guatemalan attorneys are using social workers to coerce, bribing, and forcefully take babies from their homes in order to supply the high demand. They falsify birth records and accuse mothers of being abusive and or a drug user. Meanwhile 20,000 Guatemalan orphans sit in poorly funded orphanages, because the older the child is the less desirable, everyone wants a baby.
The US has finally decided to end the baby trafficking and has threatened to stop allowing adoptions of Guatemalan children unless Guatemala changes its adoption system. While this is a step in the right direction it is appalling that this has been going on since 1980. The whole thing seems wrong to me on so many levels, not only are the child's rights being violated but so are the mothers. And the fact that the families who are buying these babies turn a blind eye to the illegal process makes it seem so synical. Some might argue that these kids are given a better life in the long run, but I see it as stealing someone's baby.

(The link is to a an older article from the late 1990s, but a recent article can be found at

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Midterm Elections: What can they tell us?

W.C. Fields once said, "I never vote for anyone. I always vote against."

"In its simplest terms, that's what this election was all about - it was a vote against."
According to Tim Egan of BBC news the midterm elections last week were an important step in gaging American sentiment about the current administration and the war in Iraq. Among the most important issues were the administration's record with torture and war policy against terrorists. Egan also pointed out that "corruption" was one of the most important issues to the American people. He then goes on to summarize the recent scandal involving Reverend Ted and the evangelical church. What was this past election really about? I think that corruption is an appropriate word. It covers domestic corruption of elected officials as well as war-policy corruption such as the process of extraordinary rendition. I think that this past election was a referendum on the policies of the current administration, and obviously the American people had something to say...

On Positive Note

FRANKLIN AND MARSHALL STUDENTS RAISE MONEY FOR WOMEN IN AFRICA, AND TRY TO RAISE AWARENESS. Last night our pay-it-forward group had our fundraiser for The International Organization for Women and Development (IOWD). The link attached is a recording of one of the songs that was played at the concert. We were just shy of making our goal of $100, but what we have is better than nothing, and we are all proud and pleased that we can make a contribution to the IOWD.

Human Face of Genocide

On the front page of the NY Times Website today, there is a video on the Human Face of Genocide. Journalist Nicholas Kristof speaks of how the international community is ready to provide bandages to those who are mutilated as a result of this genocide, but that we seem to be doing little to end it. The video shows a man whose eyes have been gouged out as he lies in bed. So we ask, "how can someone do this to others?" And, then as Kristof points out, we provide bandages once the damage has been done. But is that where our role ends? Is that all we can do? This viedo really got to me because Kristof seems to be asking the questions that makes you question yourself.

It is a video that is hard to watch...

Rumsfeld and Others to be Tried for War Crimes.

Only one week after the midterm elections and the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, the Center for Constitutional Rights is filing a request in Germany for investigation and prosecution of at least twelve high-ranking officials in the Bush Administration who allegedly ordered or failed to prevent torture, including Rumsfeld, George Tenet, and Al Gonzales. Eleven of the plaintiffs were held at Abu Ghraib, and one other at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A similar complaint was filed in 2004 but was dropped after pressure by the United States. This new complaint reportedly has new evidence and comes on the heels of the Military Commissions Act and the resignation of Rumsfeld, which apparently removed his immunity from war crimes prosecution. A brief, easy-to-read PDF file can be found on the linked site which details the new complaint.
How far do you think the case will go? Should the US put pressure on Germany to drop the case, and if they do, is that tantamount to admission of guilt? We've talked about Pinochet's punishment being 'too little, too late,' so isn't this case a good thing? I say let the trial commence. If these men are guilty, they should pay. Why should Americans be above the international laws and conventions to which they have agreed?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Genetic Basis for Behavioral Differences

Dmitri K. Belyaev studied the genetics of domestication in an animal breeding farm in Siberia. In 1959 he started developing colonies of silver foxes. Belyaev hypothesized that the single criterion that led to domestication was selection for tameness. He tested his hypothesis by breeding silver foxes, an animal which had remained wild, despite being kept on farms for about 50 years by fur farmers. After 40 years of the experiment, "a group of animals had emerged that were as tame and as eager to please as a dog...they were clean and quiet and made excellent house pets."

I found it interesting that this species that had been aggressive and wild could be bred into a domesticated pet by only letting the tamest of the silver foxes mate. Is the effect genetics plays on our behavior greater than we think? Applying the findings of this experiment to humans seems to suggest that the offspring of aggressive parents are much more likely to be aggressive themselves because they either have an "aggression gene" or lack a "tame gene." Could the end to human rights abuses actually lie in the hands of geneticists? Currently the technology to silence a targeted gene is readily available. We also know how to determine the role of genes. If there is a gene for aggression and we know where in our chromosomes it lies, we will have the potential to "domesticate" the most vicious criminals.