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February 5, 2010
Debating the impact of the ICC ruling on Sudan’s Al-Bashir


Photo: Flickr user Alkan Chagler

This week, an appeals chamber at the International Criminal Court ruled that the ICC should review evidence of genocide against the current President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir. Currently he faces charges of crimes against humanity and  war crimes in connection with the ongoing conflict in Darfur.

Worldfocus contributing blogger Ayo Johnson, who blogs at Africa Speak International, writes about the complexities of the ICC and its rulings.

I have always wondered if the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a fair organization and what criteria it uses when selecting individuals who can be put before its judges in the Hague.

There are increasing calls world wide for both former President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to face the ICC for wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan resulting in the death and the displacement of thousands of people…

The ICC up until recently was labeled a white elephant costing millions of dollars annually and failing to yield any tangible results. The ICC gained some respectability in 1999; when Slobodan Milosevic was indicted and convicting for atrocities against Serbian forces in Kosovo.

In 2003 a vocal and boisterous court; in its ambitious move to date, captured Charles Taylor and charged him with crimes against people of Sierra Leone. Taylor’s rebel group captured and drugged children who in turn chopped off the arm and limbs of innocent citizens during a 10 year brutal war…

The ICC has gone one step further charging Omar Al- Bashir a sitting president of Sudan, with crimes against humanity and violation against the people of Darfur…

The Arab League and the African Union had earlier requested that the Omar Al- Bashir arrest warrant be suspended, as both institutions were fearful of knee-jerk reactions and reprisals against aid agencies and the people of Darfur…

Sudan like the United States of America (USA) is not a member of the ICC. A defiant Bashir refuses to recognise the court, claims that the ICC is in breach of international law and has no jurisdiction in Sudan. This is an argument that has all the hallmarks of double standards, justified on the basis that the U.S.also does not recognise the court and the court has no authority over any U.S. citizens…

Nesrine Malik, a Sudanese-born writer and commentator who lives in London, argues that the ICC ruling may in fact backfire.

Despite my belief that Bashir may be guilty of crimes against humanity, not only in Darfur but in other parts of the country, I cannot help but think that the ICC has over-reached itself in this instance. The timing was again unfortunate, with the first Sudanese elections in 24 years due in April and the country holding on to a fragile peace in preparation for a referendum in 2011 when the south will vote on secession.

But as Jerry Fowler, president of the Save Darfur Coalition, asserts:

Justice and accountability are essential components of the comprehensive solution required to finally end the crisis in Darfur… President Obama and other world leaders must ensure humanitarian aid and protection for Darfuri civilians – especially following the court’s latest decision — and push for a just and inclusive peace agreement to finally end the crisis in Darfur.

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February 4, 2010
Smoking rates remain stubbornly high around the globe

According to the World Health Organization, while cigarette consumption is declining in some countries, the number of smokers worldwide is on the upswing. Those smokers also consume more cigarettes than ever.

Tobacco is considered the single most important risk factor for cancer, which the WHO says accounted for 7.4 million deaths (around 13% of all deaths) in 2004. More than 70% of all cancer deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.


Photo: Flickr user Seema K K

On average, smokers increase their risk of lung cancer between 5 and 10-fold and in developed countries, smoking is responsible for upwards of 80% of all lung cancers. Using American data, 24% of men who smoke can expect to developing cancer during their expected life time. Recently, the spread of tobacco use to developing countries has led to papers describing similar patterns there.

The Global Tobacco Atlas, funded by the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation, present data on the rates of cigarette smoking around the world. Below are maps showing overall consumption and consumption divided by male and female.

Annual cigarette consumption per person:

Percentage of males who smoke cigarettes:

Percentage of females who smoke cigarettes:

MedIndia, an Asian health portal, focused on smoking prevention in the developing world.

The WHO makes no qualms about the fact that in the absence of timely intervention, cancer can claim the lives of 84 million people worldwide between 2005 and 2015, with the low and middle-income countries bearing the brunt as compared to the industrialized ones… According to the forecasted figures for 2030, there are likely to be 20-26 million fresh cancer diagnoses and 13-17 million cancer related deaths. China, Russia, and India need to watch out and tackle the growing burden of cancer, attributed mainly to increase in use of tobacco, fatty diets, adoption of western habits, and demographic changes.

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February 2, 2010
Gays in Africa face increasing homophobia

A protester outside Uganda’s UN mission in New York City on November 19, 2009. Photo from Flickr user riekhavoc

Over the last six months there has been a worrying surge of institutional homophobia in a number of African states.

In October 2009, Uganda proposed an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that if enacted would introduce the death penalty for those who are HIV-positive and homosexuals with multiple convictions. In addition, South Africa is set to appoint an openly homophobic journalist, Jon Qwelane, as the country’s ambassador to Uganda. Qwelane has published several articles in which he expresses his disdain of gays and has even likened homosexuality to bestiality.

Meanwhile, in Malawi the first gay couple to marry openly was arrested in early January 2010 and faces up to 14 years in prison if the prosecution prove they had sexual relations; and lawmakers in Nigeria are drafting a bill to outlaw same sex marriage.

Gay activists affected by the continued criminalization of their sexuality have written about daily life under the shadow of the proposed Ugandan bill.

From GayUganda, commentary on “sexual minorities in Uganda and Africa”:

We live like ostriches, heads buried in the sand. We party and dance, and forget that we can be deprived of life and freedom. Because we are what we are. I was with some friends who are HIV positive. Asked them what they think about the bill. Silence.

I think I lost my temper. Told them in detail what the bill says. If they are ever caught having sex, them, because they are positive, then they are due to have the death penalty. I don’t joke, because those are the facts.

GayUganda also writes that the planned bill targets more than just homosexual males and makes no concessions to individual circumstances:

[T]his bill is hell on earth. We can’t fight it from the shadows. And, we have to fight it in the face of people who are ready to tell lies, even to the text of the bill, even when it is absolutely specific in language. Have gay sex when you have HIV, doesn’t matter whether you a man or woman. On conviction, life in prison, or death. It doesn’t matter that you have used any protection. It doesn’t matter that you have a partner who is a consenting adult. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know that you are HIV positive.

The Ugandan Member of Parliament responsible for the bill, David Bahati, acceded on January 21 that he will “amend some clauses” in the face of domestic and international opposition and President Yoweri Museveni has distanced himself from the proposed legislation. Observers and activists are concerned, however, that despite the setback to the bill, it will be put before parliament in the near future.

From AfroGay, commentary on gay rights in Africa:

[D]o you remember that the bill was going to be presented to the floor of Parliament in January 2010. Well, keep your eyes open for it. You are not going to see this bill tabled in Parliament this month. February perhaps? Ah, maybe, but most likely not. March? Oh, who is counting?

Others are concerned about the bill’s potential to influence African countries where homosexuality remains a criminal offense.

From BlackLooks, a blog on African affairs:

The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill remains in place. It will set a dangerous precedent across the continent if it gets passed on any level let alone with the death penalty.  It could influence and encourage those behind the Nigerian Bill as well as the governments in Gambia, Senegal, Malawi, Kenya and Zambia which have all taken a draconian stance towards same sex relationships in their countries.

-James Matthews

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February 2, 2010
Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Film

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced its nominations for the 2010 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film:

  • Michael Haneke’s film “The White Ribbon,” which scooped the top prize at Cannes last year, would seem an early favorite. The German film focuses on the adolescence of young children in a village in Northern Germany on the outbreak of the First World War.

  • The Peruvian film “The Milk of Sorrow” explores abuses inflicted on Peruvian women during the ascendancy of the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla movement. The title refers to the belief that the trauma inflicted upon mothers was passed onto their children through their milk, creating a legacy of psychological damage.

  • The Argentine dramatic thriller “The Secret in their Eyes” follows a federal justice agent as he becomes entangled in an investigation into the murder of a young woman in 1970s Buenos Aires.

  • The French film “A Prophet” follows a young French Muslim man who is sentenced to six years imprisonment in a jail dominated by the Corsican mafia. The new inmate has to quickly toughen himself up to survive in this dangerous world.

  • The Israeli film “Ajami” is about life in a mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood in the Mediterranean city of Jaffa. The film was co-directed by an Israeli Arab and an Israeli Jew and weaves together multiple perspectives.

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January 28, 2010
‘Drone porn’ develops a cult following on the internet

As unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have become increasingly central to America’s wars, “drone porn” has taken the internet by storm with captivating aerial images of death and destruction.

The Defense Department actually posts its drone attack footage on YouTube via DVidsHub. Some of the videos have caught the attention of millions, but critics ask whether the videos are newsworthy — or just lowbrow entertainment.

And while the drone strikes have undoubtedly taken out militants in many places that soldiers just can’t go, there is disagreement about whether UAVs are an effective anti-terror deterrent.

The military’s Predators and Reapers routinely strike Iraq, Afghanistan — and increasingly in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. Additionally, the C.I.A. is using drones to hit al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in northwest Pakistan.

The most watched “drone porn” segments are from Iraq. This video of Baghdad has over 1 million views:

Blogger Keith Thomson writes on Alternet about drone porn’s impact on the news media.

“In researching remotely piloted aircraft, I visited the stretch of Southern Nevada desert that has become to UAVs what Silicon Valley is to the device on which you’re reading this column. In 2007, Creech Air Force Base was made the home of the 432d Air Expeditionary Wing, the first Air Force wing dedicated to unmanned aircraft systems. Its daily missions in Afghanistan and Iraq could provide the military version of a SportsCenter highlight reel.

With an aim of promoting UAVs domestically as well as “enlightening” our enemies, the Defense Department recently began placing the Predator and Reaper mission clips on YouTube. Ranging from relatively detached wide shots of bombings taken by onboard cameras to startlingly graphic close-ups, the so-called “drone porn” has been a smash hit, as it were, tallying over 10 million views.

Perhaps best explaining its popularity are the thousands of YouTube commenters. Some marvel at the new technology and discuss the resulting paradigm shift in warfare. Some raise questions, including whether it’s principled, dignified or otherwise in America’s best interest to post drone prone in the first place. Most comments are along the lines of, “Hell yeah HOOOAH BABY!”

This video shows footage of a drone that destroyed two rocket rails in the Sadr City section of Baghdad:

Now, I don’t want to launch into a “kids these days” diatribe about how the human race is de-evolving into a pack of bloodthirsty, warmongering savages. I don’t believe video games, or violent films, make kids any less human or more prone to attack each other. However, I do blame a disconnection from the consequences of battle for this kind of war fetishism.

The drone footage looks like a video game (admittedly a shitty one), and of course the footage doesn’t show the targets’ lives (if they had a family, what their favorite book is, when they had their first kiss, etc.) The clips don’t even really show their faces. They are anonymous targets. The US military tells us these are The Bad Guys, so they are guilty, and deserve to die. Trials: unnecessary. Evidence: superfluous…

But the drone aspects of war are also clearly appealing to young people. The “point and shoot” video games are all the rage right now, which is partly why drone porn exists. Yet, the moral hazards of such extrajudicial killings are never explored in video games, or drone attacks, and all the usual human safeguards against killing during a ground invasion (namely that you have to look your target in the eye while killing them with your bare hands) are no longer an obstacle. Long ago, hand-to-hand combat gave way to guns, which gave way to better guns, which gave way to human-navigated aerial assault that has now been replaced by robotic drones.

The next video shows an aerial weapons team, also in Sadr City:

Nick Turse, associate editor of TomDispatch.com, writes about drone attacks in AfPak and modern warfare:

What were once unacknowledged, relatively infrequent targeted killings of suspected militants or terrorists in the Bush years have become commonplace under the Obama administration. And since a devastating December 30th suicide attack by a Jordanian double agent on a CIA forward operating base in Afghanistan, unmanned aerial drones have been hunting humans in the Af-Pak war zone at a record pace. In Pakistan, an “unprecedented number” of strikes — which have killed armed guerrillas and civilians alike — have led to more fear, anger, and outrage in the tribal areas, as the CIA, with help from the U.S. Air Force, wages the most public “secret” war of modern times.

In neighboring Afghanistan, unmanned aircraft, for years in short supply and tasked primarily with surveillance missions, have increasingly been used to assassinate suspected militants as part of an aerial surge that has significantly outpaced the highly publicized “surge” of ground forces now underway. And yet, unprecedented as it may be in size and scope, the present ramping up of the drone war is only the opening salvo in a planned 40-year Pentagon surge to create fleets of ultra-advanced, heavily-armed, increasingly autonomous, all-seeing, hypersonic unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

See our Worldfocus map of U.S. drone attacks in northwest Pakistan.

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January 27, 2010
Venezuelan students protest ban on opposition TV network

Bloggers react to moves by the Venezuelan government to restrict television stations, which led to protests and two deaths. Translations by James Matthews at Worldfocus.

Two students were killed by stray bullets on January 25 in a clash between pro- and anti-government protesters in Mérida, a city in western Venezuela.

Opposition groups organized the demonstrations following a January 24 order by Conatel, the country’s telecommunications regulator, to take six cable television channels off the air – including Radio Caracas Televisión Internacional (RCTV), the main opposition television channel.

The cable television channels were accused of infringing the ‘Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television’ for not broadcasting one of President Hugo Chávez’s speeches. Last week, the channels were re-classified as national networks, rather than international ones, and were thereby newly subject to Venezuela’s Radio and Television Law.

Here’s how some bloggers reacted –

Liberal Venezolano offered this commentary on the government’s clampdown on cable television:

“The cancer of the press metastasizes…The problem for bureaucrats is that once they start restricting freedom in one medium, people tend to move towards the spaces in which they can still exercise freedom – in this case cable television. This makes the initial restrictive measures ineffective.”

The opposition has labeled the measure a “gag law.” From d-b news, a critique of Chávez’s media policy:

“Chávez lost his sense of direction long ago and, what is worse, those who defend him have done so as well. I can’t understand any of the arguments put forward by his supporters. Above all, I can’t understand the justifications used for the informational gag that the Venezuelan government has enforced for some time now.”

The government, meanwhile, says that it has not closed down any channels and that it is just following the stipulations of the law.

Watch student protesters outside Conatel’s headquarters in Caracas:

CitizenNews has more images of the protests taken by participants and writes:

“These photos sent in by citizens are a response to the gag on freedom of expression in Venezuela. They are one of the few existing channels to inform the rest of the world about what is happening.”

This is not the first time that Venezuelan media organizations have clashed with the authorities over freedom of speech. In 2007 RCTV’s precursor was taken off the air amid accusations from the government of conspiracy.

- James Matthews

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January 20, 2010
Aftershock hits Haiti a week after massive earthquake

Wednesday morning, an aftershock hit Haiti as the country struggles to recover from last week’s earthquake, that killed thousands, leveled cities and left millions homeless. Today’s aftershock was 5.9 magnitude, with an epicenter about 35 miles (60 kilometers) west-southwest of Port-au-Prince, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The threat of aftershocks has kept most inhabitants of Port-au-Prince out of their homes. People still left in the city spend the nights in makeshift sleeping compounds. Our German partner Deutsche Welle reports on the strong aftershock that hit early this morning.

(View full post to see video)

Photo: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Michael Blanpied, USGS Earthquakes Hazards Program coordinator, gives an update on the current situation in Haiti. He talks about the expectations for continued aftershocks in the coming weeks. To listen to the U.S. Geological Survey’s latest podcast on Haiti with Blanpied click here.

Mark Turner, author of Dispatches from a Fragile Island shares his thoughts and personal experiences during the aftermath of the crisis.

Another awful day of bad news.

The full extent of the losses to our community is finally hitting home, as hope disappears.

This morning we learned of the death of the wonderful, vivacious Alexandra Duguay, whose house we visited only a couple of weeks ago. Also at that house party was Andrew Wyllie and family. Andrew survived, but we have learned his family did not…

It’s devastating. Everyone we met, every party we attended, everyone we had a meal with or invited over has either perished, or lost someone very close. And there is so much we still don’t know.

The fact that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere has received a lot of attention since the earthquake. Haiti’s lack of resources and widespread poverty before the quake have made the current situation even more grave.

However, a more nuanced view of Haiti is often lacking. Richard André, a guest blogger for Americas Quarterly, discusses the culture and resilience of Haiti beyond the poverty. André was born in Queens, New York to Haitian parents.

Then, as now, the world and its news agencies are turning their attention to Haiti: a small country in the Caribbean that goes almost entirely unnoticed on a daily basis. That is, unless a crisis requiring foreign aid and intervention emerges, as most do. It is no surprise that upon hearing that my family is from Haiti, most Americans respond in an apologetic tone, saying that my country is sad and vulnerable and with an unfortunate past.

The “Haiti = poor” perspective, despite being a gross oversimplification, can be explained and exemplified by the coverage on every news channel immediately following the earthquake. Second to the fact that the earthquake happened, the most memorable piece of information that was repeated over and over is that “Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.” Though the poverty that has plagued Haiti and exacerbated these disasters is part of the country, it is also just that—only a part of a complex history and identity that is both proud and rich.

Experts give their views on how Haiti should rebuild the country and the best ways to supply aid in Foreign Policy.

In Haiti, neither relief nor reconstruction will be enough: Restoration should not be the goal. The earthquake is not the first natural catastrophe that Haiti has faced. In 2008, four hurricanes wreaked devastation. Since 1994, five major natural catastrophes, an average of one every three years, have hit Haiti’s population centers. Worse, these spikes of disaster have punctuated a long-term downward drift. To exit from this spiral, relief is not enough: A coordinated and targeted multibillion dollar Haiti fund now has to bring real hope of change to the country’s youth.

For raw, aerial footage of the devastation in Haiti watch the Associated Press report here:

Read what some people are saying about today’s aftershock on Twitter:

LeChantdOiseau Been another quake in #Haiti?

thatgirl_hannah Pray for haiti- big aftershock this morning, 6.1

blackmediascoop Its only been 8 days & HAITI gets hit AGAIN! A 6.1 mag “AFTERSHOCK” struck this morning. Experts say these aftershocks could last for MONTHS

-Geneva Sands-Sadowitz

For more Worldfocus coverage of Haiti, visit our extended coverage page: Haiti’s Poor.

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January 19, 2010
China commits massive funds to future high-speed rail

High-speed train travel is set to take over in China. New rail lines linking major cities are providing faster and faster routes for Chinese travelers.

China has committed almost $300 billion over the next decade to build the world’s most expansive network of high-speed trains, according to National Public Radio.

The world’s fastest train covers the the 664-mile Guangzhou-Wuhan trip in just three hours — at an average speed of 217 mph.

From Mark’s China Blog, critique and comments from China:

“This high-speed train development is great. Chinese trains are so crowded now. Adding high-speed trains onto the already running trains is going to make train travel much easier throughout the country. Such development will also decrease dependency on air travel.”

Critics argue that China is spending vast amounts of resources on public works projects accessible only to the wealthy, saying that money would be better spent increasing social services for the general public.

Recently, Hong Kong lawmakers agreed to connect the city to China’s high-speed rail system. The project was originally delayed over concerns that homes would be destroyed in rural areas.

View the map of current and planned high-speed rail in East Asia:

Wikimedia Commons’ map of Asia high-speed rail

In an op-ed Thomas Friedman quotes the New York Times Hong Kong bureau chief, Keith Bradsher:

“China has nearly finished the construction of a high-speed rail route from Beijing to Shanghai at a cost of $23.5 billion. Trains will cover the 700-mile route in just five hours, compared with 12 hours today. By comparison, Amtrak trains require at least 18 hours to travel a similar distance from New York to Chicago.”

There is currently only one high-speed rail line in the U.S. (in blue below) — the Northeast Corridor’s Acela express train from Boston to Washington, D.C.

In comparison to China, the U.S. has only committed $13 billion over the next five years for high-speed rail construction. There are ambitious plans for 11 different high-speed lines (in red below):

Map by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration

Ed Perkins, travel writer at Smarter Travel, compares European and U.S. rail travel:

“The United States forms committees and does studies; Europe and Asia build and operate. That’s been the recent picture for high-speed rail, and it continued through 2009. European railroads completed some important links in 2009, and several Asian countries are operating long stretches of 160-mph-plus systems.”

Yonah Freemark of The Transport Politic explains the recent expansion of the European high-speed rail system:

“Truly high-speed train travel, once confined to a few isolated corridors in France, Italy, and Germany, is rapidly expanding across Europe. With the opening [last month] of five new track segments to operations at more than 250 km/h (155 mph), the trend continues.”

View the map of high-speed rail lines in Europe:

Wikimedia Commons’ map of Europe high-speed rail

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January 12, 2010
Nations on every continent struggle with racism

Comments made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about President Obama during the 2008 campaign have sparked a racial debate in the U.S. and around the globe.

Reid, who recently apologized, is quoted in a new book as saying Obama was electable because he is “light-skinned…with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

Racial discrimination takes on many forms around the world.

In Iraq, some estimate that 10 percent of the country’s 29 million people are of African origin.

Much of the black population feel marginalized and are increasingly frustrated about not having a legally mandated share of parliamentary seats — unlike many of Iraq’s other minorities, including Kurds and Christians.

Watch a report by Omar Saleh of Al Jazeera English here:

In Australia, 21-year-old Indian student Nitin Garg was stabbed to death in Melbourne recently. And another Indian man was set on fire outside of his Melbourne home.

Australian police are still looking for the attackers but say they don’t think either crime was racially motivated.

This has upset many Indians — both in Australia and India. A series of violent attacks against Indians in Australia last year had already strained diplomatic relations.

Applications by Indians for Australian student visas have dropped by half, and at least one protest has taken place outside the Australian High Commission in New Delhi.

Watch a recent report by Ashima Thomas of Al Jazeera English on the violence in Australia:

Global Voices blogger Kevin Rennie, a former secondary school teacher and resident of Melbourne, offers a wrap-up from Australian bloggers.

The murder of an Indian man in Melbourne has reignited the debate about racism in Australia and the safety of overseas students. It has also severely strained relations between Australia and India.

And lastly, in our Worldfocus broadcast tonight, we discuss the discrimination faced by Afro-Peruvians.

For the first time, the government of Peru has apologized to the African-Peruvian population for centuries of abuse, exclusion and discrimination.

The government said it hoped the apology would help promote the “true integration” of Peru’s multi-cultural population.

Africans first arrived in Peru in the 16th century as slaves of Spanish conquerors. Today Afro-Peruvians account for 5 to 10 percent of Peru’s 29 million people.

On the blog “Living in Peru,” Andres Flores writes about the history of Africans in Peru:

“According to the anthropologist Humberto Rodriguez, traces of the African culture are strongly marked in the capital. “There are streets in Lima called Malambo, inhabited by large numbers of African descendants. Their roots are not confined only to music and food, they are also seen in their lifestyle, their creolism, language and customs of the city.”

- Geneva Sands-Sadowitz

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January 6, 2010
U.S. government implements tougher airport security rules

Following an attempt by alleged al-Qaeda operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a flight into Detroit on Christmas morning, President Obama requested that governments heighten security for U.S.-bound flights.

On January 4th, the Transportation Security Administration imposed tougher screening rules for passengers originating in 14 mostly Muslim nations:


View TSA Enhanced Security Screening in a larger map

Additional safety precautions following the Christmas Day incident initially included checks at flights gates, restrictions on leaving airplane seats and using electronics/blankets in the hour prior to landing.

But the new strategy is based mostly on enhanced screening techniques. It requires that passengers with suspicious behavior — as well as passengers who are traveling from or citizens of one of the 14 nations — undergo full-body and explosive-detection scanning, pat-downs, and extensive searches of carry-on baggage. Only four of the 14 countries are currently deemed state sponsors of terrorism by the U.S. government: Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria.

This citizenship-based profiling has been met with controversy. Opponents argue that it unfairly targets some passengers and violates travelers’ privacy. The ACLU disapproves of whole-body imaging technology.

Michael German, National Security Policy Counsel with the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office and a former FBI agent said:

We should be focusing on evidence-based, targeted and narrowly tailored investigations based on individualized suspicion, which would be both more consistent with our values and more effective than diverting resources to a system of mass suspicion,

Over-broad policies such as racial profiling and invasive body scanning for all travelers not only violate our rights and values, they also waste valuable resources and divert attention from real threats.

Singling out travelers from a few specified countries for enhanced screening is essentially a pretext for racial profiling, which is ineffective, unconstitutional and violates American values. Empirical studies of terrorists show there is no terrorist profile, and using a profile that doesn’t reflect this reality will only divert resources by having government agents target innocent people.

Profiling can also be counterproductive by undermining community support for government counterterrorism efforts and creating an injustice that terrorists can exploit to justify further acts of terrorism.

Many bloggers see the new efforts as superficial. Bruce Maiman writes:

How many of these procedures at the airport and on the airplane really work? They seem more like theatre designed to make you feel safer when in fact that do little to make you safer.

Tunku Varadarajan, Research Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and professor at NYU’s stern Business School writes about the aftermath of the failed attempt by the “jock-strap jihadist“:

The Transportation Security Administration went predictably into Pavlovian overdrive, announcing a series of new security measures that would take immediate effect. This is the other, less reassuring, side of the episodic nature of the terrorist threats against us. We seem always to react, never to anticipate—and in this form of hasty reaction, with its flavor of humiliation, and of having been outwitted by a wearer of dangerous underwear (or shoes), there lurk always the seeds of over-reaction…

The broader point is that we need, constantly, to recalibrate our bandwidth of stoicism. We are at war with al-Qaeda; that organization is doing its best to kill us. Our need is, of course, to make it as near to impossible for it to do that. But our reaction to each new threat must not be to grant al-Qaeda small, but important, victories, in the form of an imposition by the TSA of inconveniences on travelers that have not been thought through, inconveniences that are, themselves, a form of theater—the extempore theater of homeland security.

- Michael Ramirez

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Blogwatch summarizes what bloggers and news sources are saying about the international news of the day. We’ll link to informative and bold voices that place the headlines in the context of the global conversation.


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