By Davis George
As the controversy surrounding the NSA’s intelligence on citizens in the homeland heats up, it is critically important to take a step back and consider the broader implications that intelligence disclosures have on the wider intelligence community as a whole.
Unfortunately, the simple knowledge of these programs by the public, and more threateningly, by parties that are hostile to the United States, could threaten their effectiveness. The Washington Post reports that the number of people on the US’s terrorist watch list has increased by roughly 1000% over the last four years, with around 1 million people on the list by 2009. All of these individuals, especially the actual terrorists on the list, pay careful attention to the government’s actions and abilities to intercept their communications. As more intelligence capabilities, including PRISM, are detected, terrorists attenuate their methods to adapt to threats to their secrecy.
Early intelligence is a necessity for stopping terrorist threats. Michael Chertoff writes that terrorists operate under the covers of darkness and deception, meaning that by infiltrating these dark corridors of heinous communication, the United States has a simple avenue to intercepting threats before they even materialize. For instance, the Heritage Foundation assesses that in 90% of real threats, intelligence gathered would have been able to stop the threat before it even occurred.
However, the Washington Post reports that the House has just voted to completely revise rules regarding disclosure formerly afforded presidential discretion. Previously, sensitive and covert intelligence regarding counter-terror operations were only disclosed to a handful of Congressional and Judiciary Sub-Committees on counter-terror. The disclosure of information to the public poses a serious threat to national security. As Antone Gonsalves writes, disclosure of more information can push terrorists into harder to track channels for communications, eventually resulting in US agencies losing track of these terrorist organizations, and subsequently, being unable to keep a hold on their operations. In fact, Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg notes that currently the US can only index and search through about 0.004% of the internet, making the terrorist communications that travel through this miniscule section a vital component in stopping terror. And the New York Times explicates that following the leaks by Edward Snowden, intelligence officials saw a marked decrease in the number of terrorist communications moving through known networks. Inadvertently moving communication away from this critical choke point could seriously harm our nation’s ability to adequately pre-empt terrorism.
Further, disclosure by media organizations also has the severe potential of harming informants who are brave enough to either report on, or even infiltrate terrorist organizations. The backlash perpetrated on these American heroes as a result of disclosure is severe and irreversible, as terrorist organizations only negotiate in one currency: blood. Unfortunately, the LA Times reports that in the case of a specific Yemeni operative who funneled terrorist information to the FBI, disclosure has left the informant helpless and in the hands of terrorists, who have conclusively rooted him out as the “mole”. British and Saudi allies were reported to be furious about the foiling of this informant’s vital cooperation.
When weighing the costs and benefits of disclosures in today’s dynamically changing world of terrorist threats, a careful analysis of the after effects of such disclosures is important to ensure the US’ continued offensive capability against terrorism. It’s always vital to remember that as we watch terrorists, they peer back at us.
By Tim O'Shea
Nine Eleven was a crisis. No one will dispute that. But the only thing more important and lasting than a crisis is the reaction. Not only how it addresses the problem, but also how it checks itself from being too expansive, irrational, or emotionally driven. And America’s reaction to the threat of terrorism has been all of the above.
The first issue is always going to happen. Crises and the ensuing panic, paranoia, and anxiety can drive people to pursue options that they would not have considered had the crisis not driven them in to such a state. Psychologist Daniel Goleman wrote that the part of the brain that controls fear, the amygdala, can inhibit decision-making processes should it react strongly enough. While this may be harmless on the individual level, using those reactions to craft policies that will persist long after the fear has subsided makes the problem much more permanent.
The second issue is one much more caused by the American legal and political system than to fear. Simply put, laws will only expand their ground. As new boundaries of laws are tested and upheld, the laws can find themselves covering much more than previously anticipated. U.S. counterterrorism efforts using drones led to the killing of Anwar Al – Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, setting up precedent for the United States to indiscriminately kill U.S. citizens without any kind of constitutional protection. Moreover, the newly revealed domestic surveillance operations done by the National Security Agency have been justified through the expansion of the ground of the PATRIOT Act to include operations like the ones the NSA conducts. Thus if it’s clear that this relentless expansion of ground is occurring, the next question is why.
One culprit may be the political incentives behind anti – terrorism laws. Politicians often portray themselves as defenders of the people when they pass a law designed to stop terrorists. However, this makes it politically harmful to repeal the laws, even if they may be frightfully ineffective or misallocated. Furthermore, laws that are ineffective themselves but represent a widely supported political movement may be difficult to resist because going against the law can be misconstrued as going against the root value of the law. Finally, if a law persists for long enough, such as the case of the PATRIOT Act, its measures become the norm, causing any repeal to appear as a scaling back of the “normal” levels of security.
While it may seem that unchangeable human behavior is to blame for the expansionary trends in anti – terrorism laws, easy legal augmentations pose a solution. For instance, “sunset” provisions ensure that provisions of laws will expire after predetermined periods of time absent extension. For instance, the PATRIOT Act had fourteen permanent provisions, but three contained sunset provisions that will cause them to expire in 2015 absent action. While failure to extend the laws can encounter the same political costs and obstacles as repealing them, it still offers an easier option that allows conflicted politicians to end a measure passively rather than actively voting against it. Furthermore, simple control can offer an even greater solution. While emotional reactions in the event of catastrophe are understandable, it’s important to think about the long term before shouting for changes. Politicians still have to please the people, and if the people can measure their reactions and expectations in a way that doesn’t create incentives for such irreversible actions, the problem will be cut off at the source.
The expansionary nature of anti – terrorism laws is neither a reason to stop passing them nor a reason to repeal any faulty law. But when certain laws mean so much for both civil liberties and national security while simultaneously being so emotionally charged, much care must be administered when evaluating them in order to check steps that could create consequences for years to come.
By Jasmine Xie
Nearly 18 years ago, the Defense of Marriage Act, otherwise known as “DOMA”, was enacted as a United States Federal law with a resounding majority of votes for banning gay marriage in both houses of Congress. Almost two decades later, a poll conducted by the NY Times finds that 50 senators openly stated their support for marriage equality as of April 4, 2013. Recently, New Jersey has joined the ranks of Connecticut, California, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C. who have legalized gay marriage thus far; the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling scheduled for 2013. Today, we will examine not only the effects of this legislation, but also the politics behind this seemingly spontaneous explosion of liberalist ideas in our government and the people as a whole.
According to an April 4th 2013 article by Nate Silver for the NY Times, support for same sex marriage by certain legislators has surged primarily due to popular preference in voters. As the population evolves to reject traditional values, congressmen feel the inadvertent need to appease to their voters. Such practice denotes that we are not looking at a shift in the opinions of our government, but rather a change in the vision of the general public. Going off the premise that this sudden swing of pro-marriage equality sentiments in our government is due to the overwhelming influence of the population as a whole, a study conducted by the New York Times showed how after President Obama voiced his support for same-sex marriage, support from both government officials and the general public increased as well. In terms of congressmen opinions, factors such as ideology index and estimated amount of voters for same-sex marriage in his or her state drastically impacted their decisions. Other less statistically significant factors included the age of the congressman (as a subtle trend in which those who were born later tended to support marriage equality more than those who were born earlier) and the party of the congressman (seeing that the ideology index had already been taken into consideration and any party-related data would merely serve as an additional predictive measure). In the end, however, support for gay marriage has undoubtedly gained momentum. While just ten years ago, only around three percent of senators endorsed same-sex marriage, today, around half of our representatives recognize same-sex weddings as legitimate, projecting a steady exponential increase for the years to come.
The government is not the only one voicing their support for marriage-equality, however, as mass media has taken this controversy by storm. Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign launched a red and pink spin-off logo of their original blue and yellow equal sign as a message of support for two of the same-sex marriage cases that went to the Supreme Court. The response was overwhelming, as Facebook users by the millions changed their profile pictures. The Human Rights Campaign website crashed as a result of people going on their website to download the image, and celebrities such as George Takei, Ellen DeGeneres, Beyonce, and Padma Lakshmi joined the movement as well. Along with the Internet, the entertainment business has begun advocating for gay rights as well. In 2012, the song “Same Love” sung by rapper Macklemore and Mary Lambert, and produced by Ryan Lewis had a whopping 350,000 views just 24 hours after its release. The song was recorded during the Washington Referendum 74 and discusses gay and lesbian rights. The record has achieved international fame, claiming the number one Billboard spot in Australia and New Zealand. Its album cover depicts a simple yet stark photo of Macklemore’s uncle and his partner, serving as a powerful reminder of the pressing inequality that so many same-sex couples face on a day-to-day basis.
And yet, why should we care? Just in September, Governor Chris Christie had promised to bring the legalization of same-sex marriage in New Jersey to the Supreme Court. Only a year earlier, however, Christie had signed a veto on the legalization, thus prompting much uproar among fellow New Jersey residents. While the prospects back in September seemed promising, in October, this sudden swing in Christie’s view on gay marriage proved only temporary. Afraid that he might lose a majority of his Republican supporters, Christie futilely attempted to put the appeal on hold, and perhaps even drop the whole case altogether. As citizens of New Jersey and as a country supposedly built on the fundamental rights of equality for all, the intrinsic question remains: how will we go about fulfilling our legacy as “the land of the free”? Deny our fellow Americans of their rights to the sanctity of marriage, or finally step up to join the ranks of so many other states in ensuring justice once and for all? As recently elected Senator Cory Booker says: “Tonight, we have crossed a border. While you all have fallen into love, the truth is the state of New Jersey has risen to love.”
1.Ly, Jason Hanna. Laura, Chris Kokenes, Rob Frehse, and Bill Mears. “Same-sex Marriages Must Be Allowed in New Jersey, Judge Rules.” CNN. Cable News Network, 29 Sept. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
2.News, Joel Roberts, Yahoo! Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 04 Nov. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
3.Silver, Nate. “Explaining the Senate’s Surge in Support for Same-Sex Marriage.”FiveThirtyEight Explaining the Senates Surge in Support for SameSex Marriage Comments. N.p., 4 Apr. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
4.Wulfhorst, Ellen, and Daniel Trotta. “NJ Gov. Christie Drops Gay Marriage Case, Risking Some Republican Ire.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
By Davis George
The United States’ and its allies’ ability to combat the dynamic threats regarding nuclear security is critically important at this point in time. It is obvious that the explosion of a nuclear bomb (and even worse, a nuclear war) would do irreparable damage not only to the United States, but to the earth’s ecosystem, and most frighteningly, to humanity’s ability to continue existence. The launching of these weapons, according to the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, would likely result in global firestorms that would eradicate 1 billion people, or about 1/7th of the world’s entire population, in addition to causing trillions of dollars of infrastructure damage. This is why Einstein, while developing the first nuclear weapon in the Manhattan Project, wrote of the “inconceivable destruction” that nuclear weapons posed if not kept in check by a stable global order. Global problems require global solutions, and without one, the launching of nuclear weapons would cripple humanity.
Securing our borders from the likes of loose nuclear weapons has never been a higher priority for our country. Without doubt, the threat is real. Peter Huessy of US News and World Report explicates that both Iran and North Korea will have the ability to strike the United States with a ballistic missile by 2015. With North Korea already in possession of several nuclear weapons, and Iran’s status on nuclear security only tangentially secure, the threat presents itself as one of the greatest strategic obstacles for the United States.
However, Gregg Brazinsky of the Elliott School for International Affairs explicates that the likelihood of a true threat materializing from one of these nations is relatively small, primarily because these nations necessitate the continued existence regime, and don’t have a true priority of expressing aggression against the United States because they would never survive the counter-attack. Unfortunately, Matthew Bunn of Harvard explains that the situation is far more grave, with a roughly 29% chance of nuclear terrorism occurring in the next decade, whether by theft, or other methods, such as janitorial corruption. With threats of nuclear terror rapidly spawning everyday, and numerous declarations of Al-Qaeda’s intention to acquire bombs, the question evolves quickly from “Is there a threat?” to “What do we need to do about it”?
One of the simplest ways to stop terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons is, of course, the use of military force to eradicate terrorists in the first place. For instance, John Masters of the Council of Foreign Relations writes the United States has been using special forces to increase kill capture missions to 2200 operations in 2011. Over 12,000 militants have been captured with this tactic, with 90% ending without a shot fired. These decapitations, according to Brian Price of Harvard, make groups around 8.1 times more likely to end. Special forces decapitations prevent terrorists from ever being able to acquire nuclear weapons, while simultaneously being targeted enough to combat specific terrorist threats without the impediment of a full army maneuver. In fact, Matthew Bunn, the aforementioned Harvard professor, concluded that US actions in the middle east against terrorists have significantly reduced al-Qaeda’s chances of pulling of a nuclear terror complex, by almost 20%.
However, pre-emptive measures aren’t the only tools in the toolbox against nuclear proliferation. Jeffrey Goldberg of the Nuclear Threat Initiative details that since 2002, special operations forces have been placed in “nuclear hotbed” regions, ready to address and neutralize nuclear crises’ by intercepting weapons and defusing them, especially on the open ocean. In fact, an article by the Atlantic explicates that this sort of “render safe” mission has been used to intercept a ship from North Korea, which had an illegal weapons system on board. Further, the Department of Homeland Security writes that render-safe teams have been deployed 19 times worldwide in response to emergency threats. Other interception techniques have been wildly successful, as Condoleeza Rice writes the the PSI, or proliferation security initiative, has prevented almost 11 risky nuclear transfers by scanning different types of containers that move into ports for the alpha, beta, and gamma radiation that nuclear weapons almost inevitably emit. These successful, innovative, measures help to create a buffer action which continuously neutralizes up and coming nuclear threats.
Fortunately, sometimes, the issue becomes a self-solving one, dissolving tensions almost as fast as they materialize. Barak Ravik of Haaretz explains in more detail, noting that since the inauguration of Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s stance on nuclear weapons has been surprisingly cooperative. According to the Economist, talks have begun between Iranian and US officials ; this has never happened before. In return for six months of reduced frozen sanctions, the Iranians have now agreed to step back on their progress towards a nuclear weapon. This marks a turning point in the success of diplomacy. By peacefully stifling weapons at the source, we simultaneously reduce the ability of terrorists to acquire these weapons.
Together, all of these methods must be used multilaterally to combat the nearly instantaneously changing threats that nuclear weapons pose to our society and our world.
By Anvi Mahagaokar
After decades of failing to gain the upper hand in the so-called War on Drugs, many are frustrated with the current stagnation that faces the governments in the conflict. It seems that the drug cartels are consistently beating the governments, only resulting in thousands upon thousands of deaths. Unfortunately, the biggest death of them all is that of hope itself – the lack of morale in many of the violence ridden countries may prove to be their downfall.
This senseless violence has prompted the circulation of several possible solutions. The most unorthodox one, however, is the decriminalization of drugs. It had circulated as a viable solution for a couple of years, until the U.N. reasserted its zero tolerance policy for drugs still stands. That said, many countries throughout Latin America are entertaining the idea of instituting the somewhat avant-garde policy in direct retaliation to the drug war.
After Uruguay announced it was taking a small step towards decriminalizing drugs by first legalizing the sale and possession of marijuana, many analysts started wondering if the pros of decriminalization actually outweighed the cons. In theory, the decriminalization of drugs could prove to be the fatal blow to the drug cartels, and instrumental in ending the long drawn out Drug War.
First, legalizing the sale and possession of drugs, at least in Latin America has many benefits – the first being that the government can capitalize upon the economic benefits of the drug trade. Many Latin American countries are socialist, and therefore, because of the current legal status of drugs, they cannot privatize the market. On the other hand, should the governments choose to decriminalize drugs, then they would have the ability to privatize the cartels in order to turn a profit. These countries are, for the most part, developing economies, and the extra bit of revenue garnered from this could end up facilitating long term economic growth for the countries involved. It would be a win for everyone involved (except the drug cartels).
Additionally, in relation to the drug related violence, part of the reason the drug cartels have large influence is because many drug related businesses are conducted underground. In the underground, cartels have the ability to extort and murder in order to make their profits. People are so scared of the cartels because the judicial systems in many of these countries are corrupt and law enforcement is constantly bribed by the cartel leaders. Therefore, the people do not have the ability to get legal justice for the crimes against them. This lack of judiciary power leaves an incentive for the cartels to continue to perpetuate their violence, because they are cognizant of the fact that they are not going to get punished for dealing in illegal drugs. By decriminalizing drugs, Latin American governments can eliminate the atmosphere of fear in their country, even if they can’t do anything about the judicial system because if the judicial system is no longer involved in the process, then the cartels have nothing to hold over the citizens’ heads. If the governments choose to decriminalize drugs, they can effectively take power from the cartels by taking away their leverage, ensuring that the level of violence in these countries decreases.
Currently, even though the U.N. and the American federal government are against the decriminalization and legalization of drugs as a means of combatting the drug cartels, it really is one of the last viable options available. In order to stem the violence that is prevalent throughout the countries, the countries need to come to an agreement and take action soon in order to gain the upper-hand in a war that is plaguing countries across the western hemisphere.
By Alison Shim
'February 7, 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the ongoing US embargo on Cuba, a nation off the coast of Florida. Fifty years ago, U.S. President John F. Kennedy was optimistic at what the embargo could accomplish: “The loss of this income will reduce the capacity of the Castro regime… to engage in acts of aggression, subversion, or other activities endangering the security of the United States and other nations of the hemisphere.” Ever since, the embargo has continuously consisted of economic sanctions and restrictions on Cuban travel and commerce for all people and companies under US jurisdiction. Despite being the longest trade embargo the U.S. has ever imposed, some also now deem it the least successful. Many have recently contested whether or not the embargo is now actually harming the innocent people of Cuba under the current regime.
The embargo currently creates mass food shortages across Cuba, depriving the very people the embargo sought to empower. With inefficient domestic farms and a lack of access to cheap American agricultural markets, it becomes nearly impossible for the people of Cuba to obtain the food necessary to feed the entire population annually. Trade restrictions imposed by the embargo prevent Cuba from obtaining much needed agricultural benefits. Isacc Inkeles in the Harvard International Review of March 2013 contends, “The state farms are terribly inefficient and some years produce only 20% of the food necessary for the Cuban people. Thus, Cuba must import a large quantity of its food”. It is radically unfeasible to assume that Cuba can support its people and their basic necessities solely on its own domestic production. Greg Pugliese of the George Washington University International Affairs Review furthers in 2011, “Because of the American embargo, imports are extremely expensive… the nation’s vast amount of low-wage workers can not afford the prices of imports.” As a result of the embargo, it has become increasingly expensive for Cuba to afford foreign imports overall, impairing the ability of the people of Cuba to maintain a basic standard of living. Cubans without foreign connections and access to remittances barely survive on an old Soviet-style food-rationing system that provides each household with coupons redeemable for basic foods. Providing Cuba with access to low-cost American agricultural products will benefit the Cuban people and in turn, improve America’s standing both in Cuba and Latin America. Ultimately, as a champion of human rights, it is the United State’s obligation to support the struggling Cubans, those most discontent with the Castro regime and those who most deserve change.
In addition to helping the people of Cuba, lifting the embargo will be able to benefit the U.S. health sector by supplying the U.S.’s current shortage of doctors. Cuba’s heavily developed health sector contains thousands of doctors eager to immigrate to the United States, but the embargo currently prevents this from occurring. An article from Foreign Affairs reports in August 2010, “The travel restrictions impair thousands of highly skilled Cuban medical personnel from pursuing employment in the United States, where higher paying jobs make the move highly attractive.” Essentially, the embargo prevents thousands of qualified doctors from working in jobs that could significantly benefit their families financially. According to the American College of Physicians in 2011, the United States has approximately one doctor for every 2,500 patients and a critical shortage of nearly 17,000 doctors. Lifting the embargo will allow Cuba’s medical sector to fill these gaps for the benefit of America’s public health. With the recently enacted federal health-care reform law putting more than 30 million more Americans on insurance, the need for physicians is dramatically increasing. Cuban physicians will be able to shoulder the burden and treat American citizens, increasing remittances to Cuban families and helping American families.
Overall, the Cuban embargo has now become outdated and frivolous. For the sake of both the people of Cuba and American public health, it is time to lift the embargo and reinstate trade and free travel between the two nations.
By Alicia Jen
Negotiations for peace are usually praised by the international community. They serve as a breather for countries fearing escalation, especially for those close to the conflict. So why is Saudi Arabia so upset over Washington’s recent measures to avoid war in the Middle East?
For years, Saudi Arabia has been one of America’s most valuable partners in the region. The two countries cooperate in military endeavors, beginning with the Persian Gulf War of the 1990s. They currently share military forces and work together in the War on Terror. They also have strong economic ties; the US is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner, and in return, Saudi Arabia is our country’s leading sources of oil, providing over one million barrels each day. Perhaps most importantly, Saudi Arabia gives the United States support in a region that is less than approving of US influence. As the US Department of State asserts, “The United States and Saudi Arabia share common concerns and consult closely on wide range of regional and global issues.”
However, it’s the supposed lack of consultation on Middle-Eastern affairs that has angered the Saudi royal family. Several months ago, President Obama and the Saudi government had been equally resolute in planning to send military forces to Syria over allegations of President Bashar Assad using chemical weapons on his people. Russia’s sudden interference, resulting in an agreement with the United States for Syria’s peaceful disarmament, must have appeared like a betrayal to Saudi Arabia. Prince Turki al-Faisal bluntly remarked that “The current charade of international control over Bashar’s chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious.” Saudi Arabia has funded the rebel forces opposing Assad, so to the kingdom, the United States was granting amnesty to Assad’s attacks on Saudi interests.
More recently, Saudi Arabia has viewed negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program with suspicion. Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are long-time rivals, and the latter was so concerned about Iran’s nuclear program that King Abdullah urged the US to attack Iran and “cut off the head of the snake” in 2008. This attitude hasn’t changed even after Iran’s election of the seemingly more moderate President Rouhani, with Prince Turki cautioning that, “The forces of darkness in Qom and Tehran are [already] well entrenched.” Saudi Arabia was not included in the international negotiations reassessing Iran’s promises for peaceful nuclear power, and it fears that any concessions given to Iran would only allow further concealed development of nuclear weapons.
In response to this supposed disloyalty, a source close to Saudi policy reported that Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi intelligence chief, stated that his country would be making a “[major] shift away from the U.S.” The source continued by explaining, “If diplomacy starts with your friends and you don’t consult them then that is obviously going to give rise to suspicion…. You can’t just forego strategic alliances like that and claim to be allies without any form of consultation.” In an act of protest, Saudi Arabia rejected a UN Security Council seat that it had been working towards for years. The acceptance of this seat could only have been approved by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, who instead chose to reject the seat in a dramatic move. Prince Bandar was quick to point out that “This was a message for the U.S., not the U.N.,” displaying how the Saudi government no longer believes that it can work with the United States, which has a permanent seat in the council.
How serious is the prospect of losing the cooperation of a key Middle-Eastern country?
American officials are actively trying to reassure its Saudi interests and soothe the Saudi government’s frustration. John Kerry, the US Secretary of State and negotiator with Iran, stated that “The United States will be there for the defense of our friends and our allies,” pledging to continue preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and hailing Saudi Arabia as the “senior player” in the Middle East. In fact, even the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud al-Faisal, downplayed the gravity of his country’s anger, maintaining that his country is still “friendly” with the US and that “it’s only natural that our policies and views might see agreement in some areas and disagreement in others.” Whether the officials seriously believe that the relationship is safe or are simply being diplomatic, the lack of open hostility indicates that no significant repercussions are imminent yet.
To a number of analysts, there won’t be any sort of long-lasting impact at all, either. The relationship between the two countries survived a number of much more serious rifts in the past, and Frank Gardner of BBC believes that “none of these Saudi complaints is likely to herald an end to a profound security pact that has already endured such challenges as the 1973 Arab oil embargo and the fallout from the 9/11 attacks.” Gerd Nonneman of Georgetown University similarly notes Saudi Arabia’s reliance on US military support, asserting that the kingdom “always looked to the hegemon of the day – that is the United States … The Saudis are not going to simply drop that.” Shashank Joshi of the Royal Research Services Institute, based in London, sums it up by emphatically stressing that the current situation “is much less serious than Saudi Arabia would like us to believe” and that “the day that Saudi Arabia stops buying US weapons and tries to kick the US out of the Gulf, that is the day we can talk about a breakdown in relations.” With the world’s most powerful military behind its back, it’s unlikely that Saudi Arabia would give it up quickly, allowing the US to preserve its own economic and diplomatic benefits. Because of this, while the US should keep Saudi interests in mind when dealing with the Middle East, it shouldn’t be deterred from pursuing its own desire to peacefully diffuse conflicts just to satisfy a country that can’t afford to relinquish its ties to the US anyway. Hopefully, Saudi Arabia will leave behind its current displeasure and see the value of the international efforts to keep its own region out of war.
By Cathy Chen
On October 16th, 2013 the results of an election were as predicted: the Democratic Party won New Jersey’s Senate election for the 14th time in a row, continuing a trend started in 1972. New Jersey’s new senator, though, is far from standard. Cory Booker, the former Mayor of Newark, has captured the attention of the United States with his novel approaches to policy.
Booker has used media and creativity to highlight problems: he gone on a ten day hunger strike to improve security in dangerous housing complexes and lived on a food stamp budget to raise awareness for food insecurity. He has been labeled a “celebrity” by both detractors and supporters. Critics such as former candidate Lonegan criticized Booker for being a “tweeter” rather than a leader while supporters applaud the 1.4 million followers that Cory Booker has.
In Newark, Booker used his celebrity status to benefit the area. With a dearth of government support, Cory Booker successfully asked Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to provide $100 million to the schools of Newark, increasing funding for Newark’s public school system. He has joined Newark police on 4 am raids and, during his tenure as mayor, crime in Newark decreased by 33%.
The subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary “Street Fight”, Booker had his first campaign for mayor of Newark in 2002 and faced a strongly-backed incumbent who used personal attacks and connections to thwart Booker’s first run for Mayor of Newark. Five years later, Booker was in office and the incumbent convicted of fraud and sent to prison.
As mayor, Cory Booker increased investments into Newark infrastructure. In 2013 alone, he brought $1 billion in developmental projects and millions more dollars in aid from various philanthropic sources. Bringing prosperity to poor areas, saving a neighbor from a burning building, and shoveling snow during Hurricane Sandy, Booker has highlighted the advantages of his unconventional approach.
But in addition to these tangible results, hopefully Cory Booker’s rise in political prominence will help solve the problem of political apathy.
A 2011 Newsweek study asked 1,000 US citizens to take the American Citizenship Test. The results were highlighted the depressing state of voter ignorance – 73% did not know the justification for the United States fighting the Cold War, 29% could not name America’s vice president, 44% could not define the Bill of Rights.
In addition, we have one of the lowest voter turnout rates among comparable democracies, with the nation’s youth 20% less likely to vote than older citizens.
Clearly, we have a problem. Without an informed citizenry, the entire concept of democracy fails to work well – if people do not know the facts, they have a hard time making a good decision or properly representing their views.
So how does Cory Booker come back into all of this?
With 1.4 million followers on twitter (5 times the population of Newark), Cory Booker is already in communication with a large group of interested civilians. With his connections to famous pop culture icons, he has access to a large group of people many of whom are largely disconnected from the political process. With an unconventional approach to politics, Cory Booker can capture the interest of a currently apathetic population, bringing subjects of policy and politics back into the interest of the United States.
Right now, we are in dire need of someone who can revitalize the process of politics and make people care about policy issues, someone who can make people (especially young people) feel connected to the political issues discussed in the nation’s capital. Someone like Cory Booker can help the voting public of the United States want to know more about the issues of their world.
Cory Booker is a Democrat who supports abortion rights, tax incentives to increase hiring, marriage equality, small businesses, and pro-bono legal help for ex-convicts. He has received corporate campaign donations and personally disliked (but tolerated) gays until college. He supports medical marijuana and school voucher proposals. He is unmarried and a vegetarian.
By Christine Wang
When debating whether or not to provide food aid to North Korea, a nation whose citizens suffer largely from famine, people intuitively argue that we should. The citizens should not be deprived of something as basic as food when they are working overtime just to keep their families alive. UCLA graduate Shimon Moshehai expresses that much of the hostility between North Korea and the rest of the world stems from chronic food shortages that plague the nation; thus, food aid to North Korea should be both desired and beneficial, right?
In the 1990s, North Korea suffered a severe famine that caused almost 1 million people to die because of starvation. Unable to recover on its own, North Korea implored for food aid from other countries, such as the US, China and South Korea, in order to recuperate. The Congressional Research Service states that “between 1995 and 2008, the United States provided North Korea with over $1.3 billion in assistance” with “more than 50% for food aid”, exemplifying the fact that North Korea depended significantly on the US for aid. Through history, food aid to North Korea has fluctuated, ranging from 1.5 metric tons to 2 metric tons. The fluctuation exists because they are multiple cases of mistrust and suspicion that cause the US to withdraw aid.
Currently, North Korea refuses to cooperate with monitoring programs that the US attempts to institute. As a benefactor of North Korea, the US should reserve the right to be able to see where the food is being allocated in order to ensure optimal aid. In 2011, President Obama signed a bill that mandated that “food assistance may only be provided if “adequate monitoring and controls” exist. The problems arise as “the U.S. [halts] food shipments to North Korea in 2009 after Pyongyang (the capital of North Korea) expelled U.S. officials overseeing aid distribution”; if the food aid is not being allocated to correct areas, then those in most dire need of it would not receive it. A survey conducted by the Global Post in May 2013 showed that 8 out of 10 North Koreans are still undernourished, causing the US to question the efficiency of our food aid. The Human Rights Watch hints that much “economic mismanagement” favors the “military and government officials” of the country; however without monitoring policies, this remains purely extrapolation. Regardless, the facts still stand that “20 percent of North Korean children under 5 are malnourished” and that the North Koreans struggle daily to provide for their families. Thus, the lack of monitoring explicitly links to the lack of improvement seen within the country.
The US prioritizes the security of the global community that North Korea potentially threatens if food aid is apportioned to areas with harmful outcomes. Historically, a negative correlation exists between North Korea’s nuclear program and the amount of food aid the US obligingly provides for the country. Since 1994, when previous President Bill Clinton signed an “Agreed Framework” with Korea in order to suspend nuclear programs in trade for aid, the US has inevitably remained linked by some way, shape or form to North Korea. Therefore, it is imperative that the US address both its humanitarian and security goals of North Korea while staying wary of North Korea’s nuclear growth. Constant alterations to set policies between the US and North Korea’s nuclear pact cause much distrust between the two nations. An article published in April of 2013 highlighted the fact that “North Korea signed a denuclearization-for-aid deal in 2005 but later backed out of that pact”, now claiming that “its nuclear arms are a treasured sword that it will never give up”. The dangers of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and threats of nuclear strikes relay the fact that a long-lasting diplomatic resolution, other than food aid, is necessary to relieve the tension.
Overall, North Korea’s lack of transparency is an incontrovertible fact as to why the US is hesitant to whole-heartedly give food aid. As long as North Korea only views more “efficient farming practices and greater loyalty to the revolution” as the sole solution to improving the system, these food shortages remain prominent and very urgent.
By Vivek Gurumoorthy
Today’s medical field is perpetually advancing. Breakthroughs come out in medical research, cures, and discoveries, as scientists find new ways to combat disease and facilitate care for patients. One of such new ideas, a concept that is capable of revolutionizing modern medical care, is the use of stem cells. Stem cells are capable of differentiating themselves into needed types of cells. This essentially helps to combat many different ailments. However, many now debate whether culturing cells kills human life. Some contend that harnessing stem cells could do wonders for sick patients, while others argue that it could kill developing life. This ethical dilemma is what makes stem cells such a controversial topic in the modern day.
Diseases and sicknesses within the human body always start at the cellular level. Old and worn out cells that do not function adequately become cancerous, infected cells that affect all those around them. This is the exact problem that stem cells aim to solve. Stem cells involve the replacement of worn or cancerous cells to improve the state of important tissues of the body. Additionally, if multiple specific cells are needed, the proliferation of many stem cells is highly possible. Millions of functional cells can be produced by this repeated cell division. The produced cells can then differentiate into the required or desired type. Doctors are given the power to pick and choose the type of cell they need a stem cell to be, specializing it with a specific function. Stem cells open the door to innovative cures for diabetes and heart disease treatments, changing the way doctors treat and look at patients.
Furthermore, there are a few different types of stem cells, including embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. All of these cells are cultured from a young blastocyst cell so that they can be used to help patients. Embryonic stem cells are those taken from actual human embryos that are not fetuses. These cells are pluripotent, meaning that they have the capacity to differentiate into any type of cell. Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can only differentiate into certain types of tissues. These are used for retaining healthy conditions for tissues and repairing damaged tissue. Recently, new ideas and discoveries have led to the study of adult stem cells used for transplants.
One potential problem with stem cells is the possibility of their rejection by a patient’s body. Adult stem cells ultimately have less potential to be rejected by the patient’s body. However, the culturing of embryonic cells is an easier process than that of adult cells. This culturing process of embryonic stem cells is what brings up the ethical debate on stem cells.
Scientists culture fertilized human egg cells and utilize their embryo for embryonic stem cells. This is what the topic of controversy in stem cell research has centered around. Some believe that culturing this cell destroys and kills a potential human life. In reality, fertilized egg cells are just parts that make up the human body and the culturing of these cells does not kill a separate human life. It only takes a small part of a donor’s body and helps patients with it. In addition, with the discovery of new IPSCs (Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells), already differentiated cells of humans can be influenced back into a near-embryonic state. From there, differentiation of these cells to different types can be applied to areas that specific patients need. Therefore, the culturing of embryonic stem cells does not endanger human life.
Thus, the medical potential of stem cells is endless. They can cure disease, repair damaged cells, and replace cancerous or infected cells. Stem cells, though thought to potentially kill human embryos, merely take parts of cells that make up the human body from donors to help others. Fully capable of revolutionizing today’s medical field, stem cells are an important tool that should be used in medical practices and will help to advance society as a whole.