Posted in Baby Groot

I’m Watching You

Since the Obama administration’s Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) program, there have been countless discussions on the topic of surveillance. The most pressing issue, however, is the surveillance of Muslim-majority communities. Despite the federal government’s denial after denial, civil rights groups have attested to the fact that there is a bias in surveilling Muslims. In fact, the CVE program was advertised to be a “community partnership”; local leaders would be given either grant money or government support so that they may report signs of radicalization or extremism. However, what exactly are signs of these qualities? From the get-go, the policy was too vague to work properly, and so, Muslim communities who pose no danger are now being surveilled.

Now, under the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security wishes to rebrand Obama’s CVE program to “Countering Radical Islam” or “Countering Violent Jihad”. It is bad enough that national surveillance targets Muslims who pose no imminent threat, but now the programs are shifting to focus on just “radical Islam”. Both names offered by Homeland are designed to target a specific form of extremism (“violent Jihad”), and turn a blind eye to every other form of extremism plaguing the United States (need I bring up gun violence and the KKK?).

Of course the federal government holds the right to watch for potential threats and dangers. In fact, some would argue that it is a government’s duty to ensure the protection of its people. However, this is not to say the government should host unnecessary, discriminatory surveillance programs. Obama’s CVE program showed no clear solution —there were no clear “signs” that equaled potential extremism, nor is there any consistent data that states radicalization leads to terrorism. Now, the Trump administration is making matters worse by issuing programs specifically targeting a form of extremism while ignoring all others.

Do you hear that? It’s the government saying, “I’m watching you.”

To read more, please visit: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/16/obama-countering-violent-extremism-muslim-surveillance

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Posted in Baby Groot

Congress: the Meddler in Forbidden Love Affairs

As the 115th Congress of the United States settles, both new and old topics of discussion have been brought forth. One of these topics is the US’ relationship with Russia, and those connected with the nation. One would assume that Congress would give a pass to the First Family, but Congress is con-gruesome.

As the members of legislative branch investigate the ties between Trump’s administration and the Russian government, even the First children will be looked into. California representative and ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Adam Schiff states, “I don’t think anyone is beyond the scope of what we need to look at.” Specifically, Schiff is regarding Donald Trump Jr.’s appearance at a French think tank which nominated Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize.

What is even more peculiar is that the White House refuses to acknowledge any questions regarding Russia. In fact, meetings such as that which Trump Jr. attended are often concealed and kept under the rug.

Perhaps the 115th Congress will expose exactly how connected the Trump administration and Russia are, and to what extent this forbidden love affair will continue. Will the Montagues and Capulets get along, or will Romeo and Juliet have to separate?

To read more, please visit: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/russia-probe-congress-casts-wide-net-including-family/story?id=45899451

Posted in Baby Groot

She used to hunt antelope. Now she hunts Boko Haram.

Despite the Marvel and DC worlds have few female superheroes, the real world is having more and more. One such heroine is Aisha Bakari Gombi.

When seven women and children were abducted by Boko Haram — the world’s deadliest terrorist group — Bakari Gombi received a phone call by an army commander asking her to track the group. A woman who used to hunt antelope, baboons, and guinea fowl is now hunting the group that took over 6,644 lives in 2014 alone.

While hunting, the 38-year-old hunter leads a group of men aged 15 to 30 using sign language, animal sounds, and birdsongs. Because of her success, Bakari Gombi has earned the title “queen hunter”. In fact, the queen hunter claims, “Boko Haram know me and fear me.”

Along with Bakari Gombi is Hamsat Hassan. After the terrorist group kidnapped Hassan’s sister over two years ago, Hassan states, “I couldn’t fire a gun when I asked to join the Hunters’ Association in a town also called Gombi, but all I knew was that I wanted to avenge the people who abducted my sister.”

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Along with physically saving the lives of many, these women are role models to young girls across the world. Their story serves as an example that a woman can lead, and that when she does, she’s a queen at it. So the next time someone asks for a female superhero, don’t give them a comic book. Give them the news.

To read more, please visit: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/08/antelope-hunter-boko-haram-nigeria

Posted in Baby Groot

A Massacre Happened and No One’s Talking About It

Massacres happen much more often than we would like to think, but rarely are they recorded. This past week, a disturbing video shows a mass killing occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The video beings with soldiers (dressed in the uniform of the national army) walking towards a group of civilians, when all of a sudden, guns are raised and shots are fired. One of the soldiers states, “Look they are dying. Watch how they get killed like animals.”

And one by one, each person falls to the ground. None attempted to run away.

As the footage goes closer to the group, it is evident that the victims were mere civilians posing no imminent danger. Not only were there no weapons near the bodies, but many of the victims look young and some were women.

Human rights activists and the United Nations are now looking into the video and its source. The Congo has a history of government-led atrocities, so it would come as no surprise if this massacre was also sponsored.

Unfortunately, these incidents are common. The Congo is not merely lawless, but rather reported as “the most deadly conflict since World War II.” From 1998 to 2007, nearly 5.4 million Congolese have been killed.

Clearly, more action needs to be taken, and it needs to be taken before another massacre occurs.

To read more, please visit: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/17/world/africa/democratic-republic-congo-massacre-video-.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fafrica

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Palestinian Teen Shot…Again

Qusai Al-Amour, another name added to the list of people the Israeli Defense Forces have killed. He was an eighteen-year-old Palestinian teenager handled as though he was nothing more than an animal.

The events rising to the death of Al-Amour were nothing out of the ordinary; Israeli troops raged through Tekoa (a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank) as demonstrators hurdled stones back. After having already been shot six times — four times in the chest and once in each leg — Al-Amour was dragged by IDF members into the jeeps. Had it not been for a graphic video captured by a photojournalist standing by, Al-Amour’s death would have been swept under the rug along with countless others.

Many would argue that Al-Amour is just another casualty — that his death was, in fact, caused by the stone-throwing residents. This argument is false, for this is not the first instance in which IDF members have shown nothing more than hostility towards Palestinian civilians already living under an apartheid rule. Since the year 2000, there have been over 9,000 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces (amongst which there were over 2,000 children), as compared to over 1,000 Israeli civilians (amongst which there were over 100 children). Over 92,000 Palestinians have been injured since then, along with over 11,000 Israelis. The numbers show it all. The proportion in deaths and injuries between Palestinians and Israelis is astronomical. The gap is proof of how Israeli forces are much more belligerent than so-called Palestinian violence.

I would like to say that Al-Amour’s death will be revolutionary. That his loss will finally see to some change between the Palestinian and Israeli people. But this case is not the first, and unfortunately, it will not be the last. It will have to take a great deal more for international committees and the United Nations to take a hard stance against Israel and its crimes. It will have to take a great deal more for the world to finally care.

To read more, please visit: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/17/world/middleeast/israel-video-palestinian-qusai-al-amour.html?ref=middleeast

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“This conflict is emphatically not between equals, but between the occupier and the occupied.”

“The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.”  It’s a small phrase, but remains to be one of the most contentious statements today, for one will hardly be able to spew it without sparking some form of discussion.

So, here I go: the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Earlier this month, the United Nations security council inspired hope when it adopted a resolution condemning Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. After eight years of silence, the United Kingdom— along with a number of other nations — stood firm against the illegal settlements Israel has been building for decades.

After the resolution passed, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, immediately denounced it. Netanyahu was extremely unhappy about the UK’s stance, and even engaged in name-calling (he accused US secretary of state, John Kerry, of having “anti-Israel bias”). But no name-calling will shift the opinions of over 130 countries: Israel is breaching law and the wishes of the global community.

It is time the two-state solution be seriously considered and enacted. The one-state solution Israel has been pushing is nothing more than “apartheid” sugar-coated and covered in sprinkles. And even when this apartheid regime claims to want the two-state solution, no action is taken to implement it. It is a deceiving notion that even Kerry has deemed inexcusable. Regardless if you call Palestinian violence “resistance” or “terrorism”, the fact of the matter is that “this conflict is emphatically not between equals, but between the occupier and the occupied.

Quiet diplomacy will not work because it is too quiet. US-led diplomacy will not work because of its clear bias towards Israel. Leaving the issue to the Middle East will not work because it is tedious and ineffective. Instead, the international community must take its stance, as should the UK.

UK prime minister, Theresa May, must recognize the state of Palestine, and it must stand its ground. No more excuses for Israel. No more turning a blind eye. Recognizing and supporting the two-state solution will legitimize both nations, and support the rights of both peoples. Silence can no longer be accepted; it is time to take action.

So, I’ll say it again: the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

To read more, please visit: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/13/two-state-solution-middle-east-israel-palestine-west-bank

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Russia and the Donald: BFFs

Is it really a surprise to learn that the current United States election was highly influenced by Russia? Of course not, because the two are best friends…or at least they will be.

According to the New York Times, an intelligence report reveals that the nation lead by President Vladimir Putin did, in fact, have quite an impact on the race. Russia’s use of hackers, pop-up windows, news outlets (including their widespread network, RT), and more have lead to the results we, Americans, will have to deal with…not Russians.

So who has Russia helped score the White House? None other than Donald J. Trump. Who other is more clarified? Pretty much every politician, but that’s besides the point. Russian intervention has resulted in the loss of Hillary Clinton and the win of a demagogue. But one must ask, why does Russia care about the U.S. presidential election? Besides Trump and Putin being best buddies, President Putin sees his stance as a sense of defense. It is “payback” against Clinton’s support for the pro-democracy protests in Moscow when she was secretary of state. In other words, Putin was being quite petty.

Of course there are a number of other issues as to why Russia had intervened with U.S. politics. The U.S. and Russia have had an unsteady relationship for decades, one that has become even more precarious after U.S. support for Ukraine, the intervention in Syria, and other conflicts.

Regardless of the motive, though, this case comes to show yet another form of foreign policy, where American politics were highly influenced by an outside entity. It raises the question on whether or not everything regarding the United States is an international issue, or if there can be times were it is simply a national problem. Does the world really intervene with every action the U.S. takes?

To read more, please visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/06/us/politics/russian-hacking-election-intelligence.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-newshttp://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/06/us/politics/russian-hacking-election-intelligence.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

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The U.N. Hits Again!

When a convoy of American officials, led by the United States to the United Nations , Samantha Power, storm through a village in Cameroon, one would think it would be for good purposes. And it was, until a six-year-old child was run over and killed.

Toussaint Birwe was one of the inquisitive villagers going to and fro from one end to the other. As the American vehicles stormed through, he too, was curious to see why. But curiosity kills the cat, not the human, so why was Toussaint’s life cut short? The American SUVs — raging at about forty-five miles per hour — did not stop to see the little boy who was merely wondering who and where these people were coming from. It was the sixth vehicle that stormed upon Toussaint, running him over, and killing him instantly. As the village cried in horror, the American vehicles continued on, even if it was because of possible threats (given it was a military convoy). Throughout this, Ms. Power did not realize what her team had done.

Even though an ambulance stayed behind to help Toussaint, it was too late. He was dead. While Toussaint’s grandmother carried his small body, Ms. Power was being informed of his death. Immediately she urged her team to go back. Albeit the possible danger she could face, the ambassador retraced her steps to express her deepest sorries to Toussaint’s family. In the end, the family gained compensation of two cows, $1700, and full tuition for their two other children, but continue to look for solace for the void within their family.

In the United States, one who commits manslaughter is still charged. One still faces the consequences. In regard to foreign affairs, though, a petty compensation is paid, but no repercussions for the one who committed the act. To blame Ms. Power is unfair, for she did not know, and when she did, she went back. To blame the United Nations is fair, for this is not the first time such an incident has occurred (i.e. the Cholera outbreak in Haiti). To blame the United States is fair, for its military was too barbarous in a town that is home to many people. These policies must change, for if we cannot treat others the same way we do at home, no peace will be achieved.

To read more, please visit: The Boy, the Ambassador and the Deadly Encounter on the Road