June Vol. 1, 2009
By Jannah A. Malik
North Korea recently announced that it had successfully carried out it’s second underground nuclear test. This test followed the rocket launching less than two months ago which was believed to be a test of the country’s long-range missile technology.
The country’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that its regime had “successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on May 25 as part of measures to bolster it’s nuclear deterrent for self defense.” Seismological measurements support North Korea ’s claim that this test was much stronger than the previous one in 2006. Seismologists from South Korea, Japan and also the Unites States reported activity around the same area where North Korea conducted its first nuclear tests.
After the United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea’s April rocket launch, the nation warned last month that it would hold a second atomic test to follow up the first in 2006. The Associated Press reports Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura as saying, “If North Korea carried out a nuclear test, it would clearly violate U.N. Security Council resolutions. We will definitely not tolerate it.”
Mr Kawamura is urging the U.N. Security Council to address the issue as all of its islands are within close missile range of North Korea. Furthermore, according to Kyodo news agency, Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka said that Japan will request an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss North Korea .
The Security Council has, however, commanded countries to prevent Pyongyang from exporting and importing materials from ballistic missiles or weapons of mass destruction.
President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea convened an emergency security session.
June Vol. 1, 2009
By Asma Stewart
The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), has become the latest front in the war against academic freedom. Professor William Robinson, who teaches classes in Jewish Sociology and also Global studies, was brought up on charges of anti-Semitism after two Jewish students reported the professor to school authorities and the Anti Defamation League (ADL) for an email message that included 25 photos of war-battered Palestinians, equating their plight to that of Jews under Nazi rule. The email also contained an editorial by a Jewish journalist condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza as well as juxtaposed images of Nazi atrocities with congruent images of Israeli aggression against Palestinians.
The email was an optional read for students, intended to spark conversation by relating contemporary events to conceptual ideas discussed in class. However, the offended students stated the email in question contained the personal views of the professor and that he overstepped his bounds as a professional educator by the intrusion of material unrelated to the course.
A week after the email was sent, the ADL wrote Robinson a letter charging him with anti-Semitism and sundry violations of the Faculty Code of Conduct. Another week passed, and the professor heard from an Academic Senate Charges Officer, who notified him that two of the students in the class to which he circulated the email had filed complaints against him. In addition to leveling charges of anti-Semitism, the complaints insist the Israeli-Palestinian issue should not be discussed in a class on Globalization.
Professor Robinson has explained that he feels the issue is being pushed by pro-Israel lobby groups who he feels have long been exploiting the term anti-Semitism to push the goals of political Zionism. Mr Robinson has defended himself by saying he himself is Jewish and that the suggestion that he is anti-Semitic is “like saying if I condemn the U.S. government for the invasion of Iraq, I’m anti-American… It’s the most absurd, baseless argument.”
Upon hearing the news of Mr. Robinson’s academic accusations, many colleagues and students (graduate and under-graduate) as well as various on lookers banded together to show support to the professor.
Officer acts as co-complainant
In compliance with campus Procedures of the Faculty Code of Ethics, the charges officer is to simply notify the accused faculty member. However, the case took a twist when it was found that the Charges Officer who notified Robinson of the complaints reportedly violated several elements of the charges procedure, thereby acting as a co-complainant by fabricating charges that were not raised by the students.
At this point the charges have reached the Committee on Committees, which is now in the process of convening an ad hoc Charges Committee to assess the complaints against Professor Robinson. Critics of the complaints say that further consideration of the charges by the Academic Senate serves only to sanction politically-motivated attacks on academic freedom. The longer this case is pursued, the wider its effect may become. Many fear that this type of academic censoring may spread fear among those who wish to present critical subjects, though they may be controversial. Even though the original complaint is regarding the Israeli- Palestian conflict, the concern for academic freedom and historic objectivity extends beyond this specific topic and into the realm of rights and constitutionality. Robinson supporters have also expressed their views that academic freedom is a right that enables scholars to express diverse perspectives over contentious topics, free from the intimidation of politically repressive campaigns.
If the case against Professor Robinson leads to ADL censorship, it could easily lead down a slippery slope that would expose academics to repressive tactics toward an endless variety of controversial issues.
June Vol. 1, 2009
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks at the Barnard College Commencement Ceremony encouraged the late May graduates to use social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter to “unite your friends,” in order to bring attention to social injustices like human trafficking and political detention of journalists. Secretary Clinton also highlighted recent demonstrations organized for democratic causes by youth and students who frequent social networks “like the undergraduates at Northwestern who launched a global fast to bring attention to Iran’s imprisonment of an American journalist,” noted Mrs Clinton, and “like the two recent college graduates in Colombia – the country – who organized 14 million people into the largest anti-terrorism demonstration in history, doing as much damage to the FARC terrorist network in a few weeks than had been done in years of military action.”
In popular culture, the use of social networking –via mediums like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, private blogs, public forums, personal websites, text messaging, and email– to gather large crowds of people united in a common purpose is referred to as the organization of “flash mobs.” The first notable flash mob was designed in Manhattan, in May 2003, by Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper’s Magazine, as a social experiment to highlight the cultural atmosphere of conformity and of wanting to be an insider or part of “the next big thing.” The experiment was an apolitical joke carried out by a few hundred participants at a local Macy’s department store. In 2008, word spread via social technology for more amusement, this time the Worldwide Pillow Fight Day, in which over 25 cities around the world participated, making the event the largest flash mob to date.
After the success of such benign experiments, flash mobs made the rapid switch to being political in nature.
Last month, Moldovan activist, Natalia Morar, was officially charged by the Moldovan government with “calls for organizing and staging mass disturbances.” However, the peaceful flash mob of 300 she and other activists organized to take place in front of the Parliament of Moldova, became known as a “Twitter Revolution” when it turned into a gathering of 10,000 protesters, including the leaders of major opposition parties and the explosive scene quickly became violent.
The US State Department, however, is determined to harness the power of social networking for positive use. Secretary Clinton announced during the speech at Barnard College, the creation of Virtual Student Foreign Service Internships, which will use social networking “to partner American students with our embassies abroad, to conduct digital diplomacy.”
Sources: State Dept., RFE/RL
June Vol. 1, 2009
(IP) –Some pressing issues in America today are healthcare, agriculture, and climate change. The recent outbreak of swine flu has brought to the forefront, the idea that food is the catalyst for these fundamental concerns. Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, sat down with Democracy Now! host, Amy Goodman, to discuss the need for reform in the food system, as it plays a major role in understanding not only swine flu, but solving the massive healthcare crisis and global climate change.
In the interview, Pollan stressed that more research was needed to determine if swine flu resulted from the industrialized agriculture of pigs. He pointed to the outbreak in Mexico, where tens of thousands of pigs “live in filth and close contact.” The Pew Commission on animal agriculture had already called attention to public health risks creating an environment that would generate new flu pandemics, he said.
The website for the Center for Disease Control asserts, “Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food.” However, the CDC continues, “Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.” Does this mean improperly cooked pork could transmit the disease? The CDC does not elaborate.
The following is an excerpt from the interview conducted Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! with author Michael Pollan concerning difficulties with other food systems outside the swine industry:
Amy Goodman: Can you talk about corporations in other ways, like Monsanto, talking about the sustainability of genetically modified foods?
Michael Pollan: Monsanto is […] making the case that the most sustainable agriculture will be intensive production on the land base we have. The argument is that there’s only so much arable land in the world, we have ten billion people on the way, and that the only way to feed them is to get more productivity over the land we have, to further intensify agriculture, using their genetically modified seeds. […]They [the seeds] have never succeeded in raising productivity. […] the Union of Concerned Scientists just issued a report looking at the twenty-year history of these crops, and what they have found is that basically the real gains in yield for American crops, for world crops, has been through conventional breeding. […]
AG: Is understanding and resolving food manufacturing issues a key to the healthcare crisis?
MP: Well, I think that we are soon to recognize that we are not going to be able to reform healthcare, which depends on getting the cost of healthcare down, without addressing the [catastrophe of] American diet.
The CDC estimates that of the $2 trillion we’re spending on healthcare $1.5 trillion is for the treatment of preventable chronic disease. Food is implicated in heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, 40 percent of cancers, stroke, all sorts of cardiovascular problems. Treating a case of Type 2 diabetes costs the City of New York, every new case, $500,000. It is bankrupting the system, and it’s preventable.
When asked about a lengthy letter Mr Pollan addressed to US President Barack Obama on the subject of food systems, Pollan describes his most significant point: “The most salient point is simply, you are not going to be able to tackle either the healthcare crisis or climate change unless you look at our food system. In the case of climate change, food is responsible for about a third of greenhouse gases, the way we’re growing food, the way we’re processing it and the way we’re eating. And the healthcare crisis, as I’ve talked about. So we need to address it. It’s really the shadow issue over these other two issues.”
June Vol. 1, 2009
By Laila A. Rahman
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under two years old be restricted from watching television, and that children who are older than two be restricted to watching one to two hours of quality programming per day.
Experts have assessed in two separate studies done by the American Psychological Association that some television programming is leading children into unhealthy habits and aggressive behavior as adults.
The first study –which was performed by several psychologists including L. Rowell Huesmann, Ph.D., Jessica Moise-Titus, Ph.D., and Leonard D. Eron, Ph.D of the University of Michigan– concluded that children identify personally with the characters they see on television and perceive the situations they see to be real. Researchers believe “violent situations that children are most likely to model their behavior after are [the] ones in which they identify with the perpetrator of violence, the perpetrator is rewarded for the violence and in which children perceive the scene as telling about life like it really is.”
The APA also believes that viewing such violence as adolescents makes children more prone to grow up as aggressive adults. The participants in one of the studies were interviewed again afterwards, and rated by their family members and friends, as to how often they would engage in aggressive behavior. It was found that men who viewed TV violence frequently showed to have pushed, grabbed, or shoved a person when they became angry at someone, and the women viewing similar material were found to punch, beat, or choke in situations where they were angry, both at a rate of approximately 4 times more than people who were not frequent viewers of violent programming. These same men and women were also found to have an increased rate of criminal convictions and moving traffic violations.
Researchers argue that the correlation between viewing violent material and the incidence of violent behavior is profound and underestimated. Dr. Huesmann’s research concerning this correlation concluded that, “It is more plausible that exposure to TV violence increases aggression than that aggression increases TV-violence viewing,” as well as: “For both boys and girls, habitual early exposure to TV violence is predictive of more aggression by them later in life, independent of their own initial childhood aggression.”
The American Psychological Association has also recommended that all advertising to children under the age of eight be restricted due to research that showed children under eight are not able to comprehend advertising messages like older children and adults do. Children under eight also accept advertising messages as truthful, unbiased, and accurate. Advertisers spend more than 12 billion dollars a year advertising such products as sugared cereals, candies, sweets, and sodas, an astounding proportion of which is focused towards this age group. Dr. Brian Wilcox, Director of the Center on Children, a key psychologist conducting the research, concluded: “Such advertising of unhealthy food products to young children contributes to poor nutritional habits that may last a lifetime and be a variable in the current epidemic among kids.” Foods high in sugar and lacking nutrition have increased the amount of children in recent years who are obese and also those who have developed diabetes.
There are, however, actions that can be taken, as parents, to stop these negative influences from impinging upon children. While many in society remain reliant upon television programming to occupy their children, persistent research conclusively shows that the most effective engagements for positive child development are intellectually stimulating activities away from the television.
June Vol. 1, 2009
Habeebah A. Samad
Beginning July 1, the award-winning Al Jazeera English (AJE) network, a 24-hour global news and current affairs channel, broadcasting in more than 100 countries, will be broadcasting seven days per week in Washington, D.C after having teamed up with MHz Networks’ prominent international channel line-up. AJE will be joining nine other international networks that MHz broadcasts and cablecasts in the region.
Like MHz’s other international networks, AJE was added in two forms. AJE programming began April 29, in the D.C. metro area. Viewers are able to watch an evening newscast anchored from AJE’s Washington, D.C. news bureau at 10 p.m. on the primary local channel known as “MHz Networks 1/MHz Worldview D.C.”
Chief Executive, Frederick Thomas, of MHz Networks says, “It was important for us to broaden the range of world news that we bring to Washington, D.C. …AJE also fits perfectly inside of our mission and I think viewers are going to find it a reliable and top-quality source for news.”
Al Jazeera English launched internationally in November 2006 as the world’s first English language news channel to be headquartered in the Middle East. After only two years on the air, the channel is available in more that 140 million households worldwide and in more than 100 countries.
“We are extremely pleased to be launching on MHz and joining their impressive line-up of channels,” said Phil Lawrie, Director of Global Distribution for Al Jazeera. “For over two years, Al Jazeera English has been …providing a platform for the under-represented corners of the world. Our website receives 22 million visits every month with over 50% coming from America, and our branded YouTube page is by far the most popular news site on YouTube. We applaud MHz for being among the first US providers to air the channel.”
The thirty-minute AJE newscast will be available in the D.C. market via MHz Networks 1, on broadcast (over the air) channel 30.1. Viewers with cable may tune into Comcast channel 30 and Verizon FIOS channel 451.
In addition to Al Jazeera English, MHz Worldview (MHz Networks 1) programming in DC originates from: Asian News International (ANI), Deutsche Welle, Euronews, FCI, France 24, Israeli Broadcast Authority (IBA), MAC TV, NHK World TV, RT, and SABC as well as MBC, Bolivision, and TV Polonia. Programming also stems from local producers and international film distributors.
June Vol. 1 2009
(IP) –New data from the US Treasury Department shows that Chinese investors cut back on their purchases of bonds during the months of January and February. Representative Mark Kirk was the first member of Congress to tour the Bureau of Public Debt, which trades bonds, and was distressed to find out how much debt was being bought by the US Federal Reserve, a private, non-governmental institution. This buying was due to absence of foreign investors.
China holds more US Treasury bonds than any other country, around $800 billion dollars. “It would appear, quietly and with deference and politeness, that China has canceled America’s credit card,” Kirk said to the Committee of 100, a Chinese-American group. The Chinese economy has also been affected by the worldwide financial disaster and Premier Wen Jiabao has openly expressed concern about the condition of his country’s US investments.
Last year, China lent America $400 billion—a sum equivalent to more than 10 percent of China’s gross domestic product. Zhou Xiaochuan, Governor of the People’s Bank of China, wants to lead China away from buying more American debt. Brad Setser of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote in a recent report: “Day after day, China is the single biggest buyer of treasury bonds in the market,” he also added that, “Never before has the U.S. relied so heavily on another country’s government for financing.”
In reality China cannot completely ignore the US currency without affecting its own US holdings, but as America continues to incur even more debt. China is encouraged to quicken its pace towards investing its money elsewhere.