March 7, 2007

If “wrongsick” isn’t a word, it should be

Posted in International Law at 9:02 pm by Sasha

I’ve recently reconnected with an old friend, who happens to be Canadian. We constantly joke about the various legal disparities between his country and mine (I’m always swearing I would move up there with him, if I could stand the cold), and we got into a conversation today about prisons. In searching for the dimensions of a Canadian prison cell, this came up.

If wrongsick isn’t a word, it should be.

Now please excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. I mean, I knew the US government was detaining adults who were possibly part of the terrorist effort. I realize that they can do this for no reason, with no probable cause, and for no specified length of time. The suspension of habeas corpus sickens me, but it is what it is. That, and if I spend any more time disagreeing with the government, I’ll no longer be eligible to run for public office.

What I cannot reconcile is the fact that children are being detained. Sure, they can call the former prison a “residential center,” but that doesn’t change the fact that these children are being raised inside bars and razor wire.

To explain why my Canadian friend has anything to do with this, I suppose I should mention that one of the families detained at the Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, is Canadian. US officials stopped their flight from Guyana, and the family has been held since. Last time I checked, the USA and Canada were allies. Meaning that one state was, well, nice to the nationals of the other. Nice meaning acting within the bounds of international law. I guess I missed the memo.

There are other things that bother me about this, though. For one, the government monkeys running this detention center are treating these kids to an education. I realize that sounds like a good thing, and on the surface it is. If they’re being taught math or science, I’ve got no objection. English I could dispute, seeing as how some of these kids probably speak other languages more fluently, and let’s face it: Americans can’t spell. The word is colour. With a U. But worse than that, is history aspect. If I understand my professors correctly, history isn’t objective. So if these kids are being taught history, whose version are they learning? I feel like a rant about pro-US indoctrination in the name of continued hegemony would fit well here, but I’ll let someone else take care of that.

I’m also bothered by the whole imprisoning of children thing. Let’s not sugarcoat this: children are being imprisoned. I’m sure the UN would have something to say. A look at the Convention on the Rights of the Child shows:

Article 37:
(b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;

(c) Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so and shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits, save in exceptional circumstances;

(d) Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.

Or, if you’ve refused to read all of that, the children (defined as 18 years or younger) are not supposed to be imprisoned, except as a last resort. And if they are, they have a right to due process.

I’m so glad the US still has to follow all the rules.

Major thanks to Verbena-19 for posting about this issue…

February 5, 2007

Drink, Drank, Drunk…

Posted in Global Water Crisis at 2:15 pm by Sasha

“Water is vital in the truest sense of the word. With none to drink, we die of thirst. With none to water our crops, we starve. With too much of it, in the form of floods, we drown.” Quote courtesy of NMUN IHP background guide.

So, water. It really is essential, if you think about it. Growing up in US suburbs, I’ve always taken clean water for granted. It’s always been a given that I’ll be able to cook, clean and bathe without risking my health. Well, almost always. Last summer, my town had a contamination scare – e-coli had gotten into the water. The problem was solved in a few days, but in the meantime everyone took extra precautions. Teeth were brushed with bottled water, water was boiled before it was used to wash food or cookware, and antibacterial gel sold out in stores. Now, I know I’m being a bit long-winded, but I am getting to a point: suburban America has the resources to react as we did, to become hypervigilant in a moment of vulnerability. Most people, in most places, do not.

Facts About the Global Water Crisis Image courtesy of the United Nations (www.un.org) via the Minnesota Daily.

Liberia is one such place. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports here that over two thirds of the state’s population rely on unsanitary sources for their water supply – even in the capital, Monrovia. Conditions worsen in the dry season between October and March, when the scarcity of water leads people to choose close sources over safe ones.

What I don’t seem to understand is why the states and institutions dedicated to establishing infrastructure in the less developed nations have yet to focus on such a basic need as water. Yes, there is a certain amount of geographical determination to the issue, but only to a degree. Prior to the civil war that ravaged their nation, nearly half of Liberia had access to piped, potable water. The technology exists to rebuild the facilities that enabled this. It seems irrational, in this age of globalization, where the world revolves around the sharing of information, that this information and the necissary resources have not been shared. Consider this from a purely economic standpoint: the diseases spread through unsanitary water are wreaking havoc in Liberia (and many other places, but we’ll stay with the example for now) because of drug shortages. And I mean really, who knew that diarrhea could be fatal? By fixing the water problem, not only are lives saved, but the institutions that routinely shell out the big bucks to the drug companies could instead make a one-time, lasting investment in the infrastructure of a nation.

Makes you wonder if there’s some sort of conspiracy between the NGOs and the MNCs… but that is a topic for another time.

February 1, 2007

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a… Giant Meteor?

Posted in Climate Change at 10:35 pm by Sasha

Ok, so no giant meteor. And no superman (sorry for the letdown). But giant meteors and today’s topic do have one thing in common: they’re both theories about the extinction of dinosaurs. Today, we’re talking about climate change, a la this article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

I’d hope that it was at least vaguely recognizable by anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past five years that we (and by we, I mean the earth and all its inhabitants) are in serious trouble. The author of this article, Mike Archer – who is a professor at the University of New South Wales in Sidney, Australia – paints a bleak picture of the future we face should our present rate of climate change continue.

Archer seems to focus on the fact that this increasing rate will have a drastic impact on our existance; extinction has been the most common outcome of extreme change – for us, just as easily as the dinosaurs. But what seems more important is how climate change will effect the land masses and populations that survive. Humans today are mobilized; unlike our ancestors, we are not fated to die due to our geographic circumstance. This seems to suggest that people will migrate to higher land, increasing the population density problem, and the malthusian cycle will cease to function.

Somehow I forget where I was going with this…

January 24, 2007

the internet is a series of tubes

Posted in commentary at 2:07 pm by Sasha

Today, I will be using these tubes to comment on the blog-ical (yes, I realize I just made up a word. What’s more, I’m proud of it) musings of The Duck of Minerva.

According to Answers.com, Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom, invention, the arts, and martial prowess (otherwise known as the Greek goddess Athena). Ironically, all the authors of the site are male. Two of the authors are Ph.Ds at the School of International Studies, American University. Another is a PhD candidate at UPenn, the third received his doctorate at Colombia and teaches at Georgetown University, while the fifth is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. The credentials of these men, which are based in their education levels, their areas of study and instruction, and the prestigious reputations of the Universities at which they are employed, suggests that The Duck of Minerva will be a reliable source for information about international relations. The blogroll looks rather diverse, though considering the authors of the source blog, most links seem to have a slightly liberal bias. What can I say, the majority of polisci professors these days are liberals.

The lack of advertising on the site suggests that the academics who write on the site consider this an academic venture, rather than a profitable one. As for the content of the posts, they seem informative and understandable. Writing takes place on an average level, as opposed to on a level only understood by Doogie Howser and university professors. The issues discussed are interesting, and with five authors working on the project, there is a wide variety of discussion.