Links to Start Your Week 3/30/14

National Security

President Obama has a new proposal for ending the NSA collection of bulk phone records, but a lot of specifics are still really unclear about the plan. It’s a good, but still way too small step towards reform.

Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law was successfully tried and convicted in a civilian court. The whole process took about a year, as opposed to the 12+ years detainees in Guantanamo Bay have been held without trial (or held after being cleared of all charges, in many cases.) So basically, we have further evidence that the civilian justice system is more efficient and effective than the highly ethically questionable situation at Gitmo.

Can we stop treating the Bush administration’s architects of the Iraq War like trustworthy experts on foreign/defense policy yet? Because that might actually do wonders for the logic and ethics of our foreign and defense policies.

 

Human Rights

Speaking of Guantanamo, Truth-Out explores the American Psychological Association’s decision not to press ethics charges against its member, psychologist John Leso. Leso participated detainee interrogations “that included being hooded, leashed, and treated like a dog; sleep deprivation; sexual humiliation; prolonged exposure to cold; forced nudity; and sustained isolation.” I realize I am not an expert, but I think that might go against that “do no harm” part of the Hippocratic oath I hear doctors take.

The U.S. ranks fifth in terms of worldwide use of the death penalty. Ahead of us: China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. But no worries, my fellow Americans: we’re still totally a globally admired beacon of human rights, freedom, and justice.

However, Egypt is on track to move up those ranks. 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted president Mohammad Morsi have been sentenced to death. On the bright side, people in Egypt believe the sentence will most likely be overturned on appeal or commuted. Still, its announcement is scary, especially given the fact that defense lawyers were unable to meet with their clients or cross-examine the state’s witnesses. It does not bode well for the state of Egyptian justice.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) passed four resolutions regarding Palestinians: the right to self-determination, a resolution on the illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, one on Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, and on the administration of the Gaza Strip. The sole opposing vote on each resolution was the U.S., underlining the way that our unquestioning support of Israel isolates us from the international community.

One of the minds behind the excellent newsletter and organization Foreign Policy Interrupted explored Turkey’s attempt to ban Twitter amidst ongoing protests.

 

Environment

The future might hold floating windmills.

The current drought in California is apparently a once-in-a-millennium event.

 

Latin America

Brazil’s “pacification” program (also known as a military-police seizure of Rio’s slums) continues as the World Cup draws nearer.

Colombian paramilitary death squads are targeting an indigenous political leader.

 

Europe

Russia’s annexation of Crimea has led some to speculate on the possibility of a new cold war between the U.S. and Russia. One of the reasons this is unlikely: Russia is capitalist now. This is not to say that there will not be continued competition between the two countries, but rather that there is not a significant underlying ideological conflict to ratchet tensions up to the old Cold War levels.

In fact, Vladimir Putin reportedly has called the White House to discuss a diplomatic solution to the situation in Ukraine. John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, will be meeting to discuss next steps.

Middle East

Iraq may pass a bill that would introduce Taliban-like restrictions on women’s movement, permit people to marry girls as young as nine, and forbid religious intermarriage. The bill would apply to the country’s Shia population, roughly two-thirds of the nation, who were oppressed under Saddam Hussein’s Sunni dominated government, so supporters are pushing it as an expansion of religious freedom.

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