Saturday, December 02, 2006

Westboro Church Banned...

...in tribal lands. They wanted to protest at a dead native American soldier's funeral, and the tribal authorities banned them from entering their territory. The head of the tribal authority stated: "We will not tolerate any harassment that is intended to provoke ill feelings and violence"

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sixth-grader Tasered in School

I decided to share this article in light of the recent attention to the tasering incident at UCLA. This is case is particularly interesting because the kid who was tasered was 11-years-old.
The 11-year-old was having a dispute with a female classmate during lunch that became physical and in order to separate the two the boy was tasered twice. He was tasered by a school resource officer with the local police department. It seems particularly worth reviewing the use of tasers especially in a Middle School were I could not imagine many of the kids are big enough that they could not be controlled by other, less harmful, means.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

U.S. to pay 2million and apologizes for false terrorist arrest

It was announced today that Brandon Mayfield, who was arrested in connection to the Madrid bombings, would receive $2 million and an apology from the United States Government for wrongly detaining him.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation released this statement:
"The United States of America apologizes to Mr. Brandon Mayfield and his family for the suffering caused by the FBI's misidentification of Mr. Mayfield's fingerprint and the resulting investigation of Mr. Mayfield, including his arrest as a material witness in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the execution of search warrants and other court orders in the Mayfield family home and in Mr. Mayfield's law office."
This is an interesting case because it may provide a precedent for hundreds of people who are currently being detained by the U.S. government. However, Mr. Mayfield is a U.S. citizen and may subsequently restrict the use of this case to a finite number of individuals. Regardless, the court’s decision is a monumental step towards resolving a human rights issue that has plagued the current administration.

Scarcity Brings out the Worst

In our last class on Monday someone raised the question of scarcity and if it makes people violent. When I heard this story I was shocked but felt that it was a great example of what we were talking about.
It is the Christmas season, people are trying to get all of their shopping done. But what happens when everyone wants to give the same gift, the new PlayStation 3 game system for example. In my home town of Putnam CT about two weeks ago a long line of eager customs formed outside of the local Wal-Mart (the same one that I shop at when I am home) waiting for the doors to open so they could grab the PS 3. Two gunmen walked up and down the line demanding money and the one man who resisted was shot. Not too far in Manchester CT a shopper was beaten and robbed of his PS 3. Has everyone gone crazy? People are getting shot over PlayStations?! Clearly scarcity in even luxury items brings out that animal instinct in people.

When is a CIA blunder worth American justice?

Check out this article about the "extraordinary rendered" Khaled al-Masri who was "grabbed by Macedonian agents, handed off to junior CIA operatives in Skopje (Macedonia) and then secretly flown to a prison in Afghanistan that didn't officially exist". He was subjected to "extreme interrogation techniques", which you can read about in the article.
The article is about whether he has a right to sue the US government -- he was an innocent man -- the CIA made a mistake -- a big one. So what should be done?

A little late

It's a little late, I know, but what's a class in human rights violations without a nod to one of America's biggest fumbles, the mistreating of the Natives of our great land. This article is a little out there, but it makes an incredible point that American's celebrate holidays without realizing what it is they're celebrating. Thanksgiving and Columbus Day are the two big fall holidays that come to mind, both of which essentially celebrate the destruction of a native culture. Columbus, of course, known mainly for the "discovery" of the new world (it was discovered by the people who walked here in the last ice age, and the Vikings after them), was a little less known for his other feats, namely spreading plague and raping and torturing locals. Thanksgiving is thought of as a celebration of togetherness, and every good American schoolchild is shown the image of the pilgrims and the Natives sitting down to eat together, yet this article paints a very different picture of the feast, one that more people should know about, rather than the one sided history taught in schoolbooks today. The overall question here, is it right to celebrate holiday's that historically celebrate human rights violations, even if the messages behind them are good?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Video Games and our friend Dozier

This is a study emphasizing the complaints of neurotic parents, video games do have an effect on the brain. Violent video games produced effects in the different areas of brain resulting in decreased self-control and activating the fight or flight response. This supports Dozier's ideas of the repto-mammalian brain; there is no real threat to the child's survival yet the game is able to arouse that response, demonstrating the susceptibility of the primitive part of the brain. Further research is needed to see if there are any long term effects on the brain from violent video games.

Religion v. Atheism

Professor Dicklitch pointed out this article form the Christian Science Monitor in class and I thought was quite relevant to our discussions. The article by Dinesh D’Souza discusses both atheism and religion in connection to historical killings. The article addresses the argument that religion is “the most potent source of human conflict, past and present.” The article mentions Richard Dawkins’ assertion that the majority of recent world conflicts demonstrate the connection between religion and violence. However, D’Souza believes that Dawkins exaggerates the crimes that involve religion. D’Souza uses Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Zedong to illustrate how atheists could cause the deaths of over 100 million people. D’Souza recognizes that some claim Stalinism and Maoism were political religions, and that Nazism resulted from years of Christians disliking the Jews. However, D’Souza does not believe those ideas at all.
D’Souza believes that certain conflicts labeled as “religious wars” are not actually fought over religion. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is mentioned as an example because D’Souza sees the conflict cause by ethnic rivalry. D’Souza does not understand why religion is made out to be a major cause of violence. Rather, D’Souza emphasizes how religion provides a moral code that condemns the slaughter of innocent people. Basically, D’Souza concludes that “religions of the world put together have in 2,000 years not managed to kill as many people as have been killed in the name of atheism in the past few decades,” making atheism the cause of historical mass murders.
D’Souza raises a very interesting issue. Is religion to blame for violence/murder? Is atheism? What about atheism pushes one to behave violently? Is there actually a direct link between atheism and violence? Does the fact that religious people have killed less than atheists mean that atheism is responsible for violent behavior? There are many questions to be asked, and can they ever be fully answered to reveal the truth?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Although the Right, there Still are Wrongs

Although the previous blog highlights a positive aspect about the genocide in Sudan, difficulties with the struggle continue to arise. Today, it was reported that Darfur rebels attacked an oil field in Southern Kordofan (east of all previous attacks, extending towards central Sudan). The attack in Kordofan by the National Redemption Front (NRF) shows a leap in the range of their campaign since they have traditionally remained in Northern Darfur. The NRF stated that it destroyed the government garrison guarding the oil field; however, the Sudanese military stated that its forces repelled the attack, claiming that efforts to extend violence to other parts of Sudan have failed. If discrepancies between the military and rebels continue, they will make recognizing, and consequently solving the problems with Darfur much more difficult. It is encouraging to know that some progress is being made with Darfur (e.g. identification of perpetrators, enlargement of African Union force, etc.), but progress will be stifled if the NRF can successfully expand its violent campaign. Also, the persistence of discrepancies will provide hurdles for those within and outside of Sudan.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

On Darfur: They came out and said it…FINALLY!

At the annual meeting of the International Criminal Court’s member states in The Hague, chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, stated that the Court had sufficient evidence to identify perpetrators of the atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region. He also said that the Court had “reasonable grounds to believe” that crimes against humanity were committed. The Court identified the following atrocities: “rape, torture, willful murder, sexual and inhumane violent acts, extra-judicial killings and the forcible transfer and prosecution of civilians.”

Moreno-Ocampo’s investigators interviewed judges, prosecutors, Sudanese investigators, a top Sudanese military official, and a senior political official. 600 potential witnesses were screened and 100 in-depth interviews were conducted. “To define the truth is important, and to define the responsibility is important, to prevent it from reoccurring.”

Last week in Ethiopia a tentative agreement was reached to boost the 7,000 member African Union force with 10,000 more UN troops. Sudan, who has opposed deployment of UN troops, has asked for a delay until Wednesday. A senior US official stated that the Sudanese government fears that UN troops “will discover more evidence. What they don’t realize is that there is more than enough evidence now.” Andrew Natsios, a US presidential special envoy to Sudan said, “There is no doubt that the Janjaweed and those who are committing atrocities are an extension of the Sudanese military.”

For those following the situation in Darfur, many of these findings are not new; however, this is a significant step in sending help to the area. Now that the international community is not turning a blind eye to Darfur, some progress can be made to put a stop to the genocide. In regards to the case in Rwanda, Clinton stated after the genocide was over that the US could have sent about 5-10,000 troops that probably could have saved about 400,000 people! I feel the same would be true in Darfur. Even a relatively small effort on the part of the US would be capable of saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Hopefully this statement by the ICC will spur some action by the international community before it’s too late…

Remembering

Thousands of Ukrainians gathered in Kiev this Saturday to remember the millions that died under Stalin's rule. In 1932-33, some 33,000 people died every day of starvation. The Ukrainian Parliament is asking the world to recognize Stalin's systematic starvation as a genocide against the Ukrainian people. Starvation was a tactic that Stalin devised in order to force the Ukrainian peasants to turn over their private farms and become part of the collective farmland that the USSR was developing.
The Russian government has refrained from labeling this event as genocide and have been referring to the incident as a tragedy. They claim that Stalin's campaign did not specifically target Ukrainians.
So far ten nations, including the United States, have recognized the starvation of the Ukrainian people as a genocide.

Blair to stop short of apology for British role in slavery

Blair apologizes for Britain’s role in the slave trade. (I am assuming the massive slave trade by the East Indian Trading Company). There is an advisory committee that will determine “how Britain should acknowledge its historical responsibility”. I think this is a little weird and way to late. Maybe it might shed light on modern slave trade and hopefully prevent future slave trading.

Iran and Syria helping to rearm Hizballah

I smell another war in the mist. Iran is smuggling weapons through Syria to re-arm Hizballah. Western diplomats in Beirut says that the weapon estimates are low and that in actuality the weapons smuggled across the board come close to 20,00 short-range missiles (the estimates are around 3,00 missiles). Now if that’s not frightening enough just read this….

“Moreover, Obaid says, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) are using the Iranian embassies in Damascus and Beirut as command and control centers -- an allegation that was also confirmed to TIME by Israeli military sources. Obaid says there appear to be direct communications links between the Iranians and Hizballah, via Hizballah officers working inside the Iranian embassy in Beirut, and Iranian officers in the field with Hizballah fighters”

No wonder why the UN can’t stop the smuggling of arms across the boarder. The article brings up the point that it might be Iran’s attempt to expand Shi’ite influence throughout the Middle-East. Just for the icing on the cake Hizballah broke the UN cease fire and the Lebanese government wants to bring a few Syrians to a UN tribunal court for trying to blow up a few cabinet members. Does not look good for the credibility of UN law