Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Dream Act and Immigration Solutions

The Dream Act was supposed to offer a way for children of illegal immigrants (who entered the U.S. before the age of 16) to become legal. They would have to have an "unblemished record" and could obtain conditional legal status for 6 years. During that 6 year period, they would have to spend at least 2 years in college or in the military. Only then could they qualify to become legal permanent residents.
The bill was defeated in Congress.

Would this proposed act provide a "special path to citizenship that is unavailable to other prospective immigrants -- including young people whose parents respected the nation's immigration laws"?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tasering of Student -- Justified?

Remember our discussion about the freedom of speech in regards to the student who spoke out at the Kerry lecture - and got tasered? After an extended investigation, the police force concluded that the use of a taser on a student at the University of Florida was justified. Before you jump to conclusions as to his rights to free speech, however, consider this - the police invesigation uncovered evidence of a confrontation between the student and supporters of Rudy Giuliani that nearly turned violent, as well as a statement from a goundskeeper that the student involved in the conflict told another student that if he liked what he'd seen (in regards to the conflict with the Giuliani supporters) that he should attend the Kerry rally the following week. In light of this information, Meyer's verbal confrontation with Kerry seems entirely premeditated and more like political shenanigans than a student whose free speech has been imposed upon. In hindsight, was it right to use force to contain a situation that could have quickly gotten out of hand (especially when the perpetrator was known to incite arguments and confrontations amongst other political figures and their supporters)?

Citizens Wait, Worry in Junta's Climate of Fear

In Rangoon, Burma, soldiers are taking photos of people at pro-democracy demonstrations. They look at the photos and then take you at night, if you are identified. These nighttime raids began last month after Burma's military put down the country's largest protest in about twenty years which was led my Buddhist monks.

Thousands have been arrested and citizens live under this harsh military dictatorship and constantly live in fear. The people are only allowed to talk in whispers about the government. As a 66 year old man in Rangoon states, "The people, we all feel so cramped up inside. We cannot talk. We cannot do anything. This government, they are killers. They have guns, but the people have nothing."

Daily routines have somewhat returned though constant reminders remain such as the barbed wire at the entrance to Sule Pagoda. Tourists have not been visiting Rangoon and it is almost like a forgotten city. The streets are filled with holes, buses have wheezing engines, and electricity is constantly flickering on and off.

Hundreds of people are missing and as many as 200 people have been killed. Conditions are horrible with scarce drinking water and one person, "...was given one egg to share with eight people, one bottle of water. No one was allowed to sleep. They had to sit, and if they lay down, they were hit." Basic human rights such as freedom from fear, freedom from speech and freedom from unreasonable searches are constantly being violated.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Should We Call It Genocide?

The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee has raised the issue of whether to condemn the mass killings of 1 million Armenians, at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, as ‘genocide.’ The issue is being carefully reconsidered because it has created a dispute with Turkey, a key ally to the U.S. in the Middle East. Turkey has continually rejected characterizing this event as genocide and has threatened to end the use of its air bases by the U.S if this vote passes. Furthermore, the Turkish government is considering sending troops into Iraq to fight Kurdish rebels, a move that the U.S. is adamantly against. So, the question remains: Should the U.S. take the moral high ground and condemn the mass killings in 1923 as genocide? Or, should the U.S. look after its national interests and do what pleases Turkey?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Effort In Eliminating The Death Penalty In Africa

Edmary Mpagi served 18 years on death row in Uganda for the murder of a man who in fact was alive. In July 2000, Mr. Mpagi was finally free after enough evidence was found to prove his innocence. 

“It was 18 years and three months that I spent in there,” Mr. Mpagi said. “There wasn't one day I didn't think I was going to die. Others should not go through what I went through - the guilty ones or the other innocent ones like me.”

Now that Mr. Mpagi is out of jail, he spends much of his time on a campaign against government-sponsored killing. 

Even though opponents of capital punishment, like Mr. Mpagi, face obstacles such as religion, politicians, and citizens who are fed up with criminals. Their effort in trying to eradicate the death penalty in Africa is making headway. For example, eighteen years ago only one country in Africa, the island of Cape Verde, did not practice capital punishment. Today, according to Amnesty International, 13 African countries have now abolished the death penalty for all crimes. However, 20 countries retain the death penalty but are no longer carrying out executions and 20 countries retain and use the death penalty.

Those who are advocates of death penalty in Africa say, what about “those who dare to take the life of another, violate a woman or commit a crime while wielding a gun ought to pay with their lives.” Mr. Mpagi’s asks, “What about false prosecutions. What about cruel and unusual punishment? What about evidence that suggests that having a death penalty does not deter people from killing, raping or robbing?” 

What do you think about the death penalty? Will the death penalty ever be eliminated in America?

Senior Khmer Rouge leader arrested

Noun Chea, the senior most living Khmer Rouge leader has been arrested in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge was responsible for the deaths of 1.7- 2.5 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. Noun Chea, now 82 was second in command only to the notorious Pol Pot. Whether the Khmer Rouge is an example of communism gone wrong, or ordinary people reacting to their situation and "following orders" the wounds in Cambodia are still glaring. I visited Cambodia this summer, and it is very much a nation still recovering from the memories of a horrendous genocide.
To this date, none of the Khmer Rouge leaders have been put on trial. In fact many leaders such as Pol Pot and To Mok have died, and many of them led comfortable lives in Cambodia even after the genocide. In 2006, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia or the Khmer Rouge tribunal was established, to try senior Khmer Rouge leaders or those "most responsible" for the crimes committed against the Cambodian people between 1975 and 1979. There are a number of concerns about the tribunal especially since it is being established nearly thirty years after the end of the genocide, and only has a three year mandate. However, Noun Chea is among the first to be indicted for crimes against humanity. The link has numerous pictures of Cambodia today, and documentation of the genocide. It will be interesting to see the role that international law and the tribunal plays for Cambodia today.

State Run Iranian TV Adapts

Iranian State TV has introduced the very shelter Iranian community a new mini-series based on the Iranian Embassy in Paris during World War II. The state run television has been trying to attract more viewers since the early 1990's. In the new mini-series called " Zero Degree Turn" portray highly controversial political messages that previously would have never be accepted. Iranian media expert explained that the government have finally adapted this new type of TV to instill unity among the Iranian community in the time were they face such intense international pressure for its nuclear program.
The series depicts the Iranian Embassy in Paris during World War II, when employees forged Iranian passports for European Jews to flee to Iran. The series is built around a love story between an Iranian-Palestinian man and a Jewish Frenchwoman he helps escape to Iran.
Is the Iranian government using sensitive issues such as the Holocaust to indirectly achieve national pride for their current government choices?