Jul 30, 2014

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The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted

By Mark Breckles

Tweet, tweet. Much has been made about the role text messaging, tweeting, and Facebook played in the recent Egyptian uprising. CNN has done multiple stories on the subject. Watching them, you’d come to the conclusion this technology will usher in a period of uprisings by oppressed people all over the world. I regret disappointing you. Protestors in Egypt have credited Facebook and text messages with helping organize demonstrations. The technology allows people to stay connected in ways never seen before. Through this connection, Egyptians organized protests and rallies with ease and got the word out to a large number of people instantaneously.

Texting, Twitter, and Facebook also eliminate the risky legwork revolutionaries once had to do. Protesters no longer have to communicate in shady beer halls, loading docks, or in secret headquarters. They don’t have to fear being caught, raided, or silenced by force. Now they don’t even have to leave their bedroom. They meet in the ‘digital underground.’

This new technology eliminates the need for actual meetings, speeches, handing out flyers, etc. Uprisings can catch governments off guard. If government officials aren’t monitoring texts, or befriending their own citizens on Facebook, how will they know what’s being planned?

This is good for the revolutionaries, but is it good for all of us? Will Facebook, Twitter, and text messages allow oppressed people to rise up without casualties? Will it prevent human rights movements from being snuffed out before they begin? Possibly, but there are aspects to this argument that aren’t being discussed by Anderson Cooper or CNN.

First off, ‘good guys’ are not the only ones on Twitter. Peaceful protestors aren’t the only ones with the capability to write a text message. Couldn’t terrorists just as easily take advantage of the network? What’s stopping violent radicals or racist groups from connecting with millions of people instantaneously? Doesn’t eliminating the physical side of revolution make it easier to spread the messages of any kind to people you couldn’t reach before? Admittedly, I don’t have a Facebook and I barely know how it works. I’m not sure if Facebook and Twitter ban hate speech, or radicals from establishing accounts. However, they could still easily communicate through mass-texting. More importantly though, what about the simple argument that in order to use this technology you have to be able to read and write?

Technology is not all-powerful. One huge obstacle remains for oppressed people: in order to text message, use Facebook, and Tweet, you need to be able to read and write, a fact that’s overlooked and not being talked about. Unfortunately, the literacy rate in countries in need of an overhaul is deplorable.

The literacy rate in Egypt is 74%, a fair percentage for a Middle Eastern country (Tunisia’s literacy rate is 73%). Although it could be higher, the protests were largely organized by students who are all literate. But what about countries that aren’t as fortunate as Egypt?

Take Afghanistan. What will happen when the U.S. leaves later this year? Will their country’s citizens arm themselves with cell phones to send text messages? Probably not. 28% of Afghanis are literate, and the life expectancy is only 45 years. In the Ivory Coast, people are rebelling against a president who refuses to step down even after he was voted out. The literacy rate in the Ivory Coast is 48%. The literacy rate in Haiti—52%. Yemen? 50%.

Even if the literacy rate rises in Afghanistan, the Ivory Coat, Haiti, and Yemen, the same percentage of people will have to own cell phones and computers to have access to technology. A lot of the countries that need serious overhauls are too stunted, economically and politically, to even begin attempting an organized revolution. The same goes for North Korea, a brutally oppressive country, which has a literacy rate of 99%. But despite the literacy rate being so high, your average citizen is too poor to even own a cell phone. The government restricts even the types of food that can be sold at farmers’ markets. Do you really see a cell phone store going up any time soon? Can you imagine a North Korean society where users have the freedom of speech to even post comments on each other’s Facebook pages?

So under what circumstances will these technologies aid revolution? Technology will only aid revolution in countries with decent literacy rates, open economies, and personal freedoms. If Mubarak had ordered his military to open fire on protestors on the first day, what good would a cell phone have been? Sure, it could have been used to capture the video and then upload it onto YouTube to the scorn of the international press. But how much do dictators really care about what other people think? Most of the countries worse-off than Egypt have no alliances or economic ties to countries that can hold them accountable.

Both the Egyptian people and government showed how powerful this technology can be. The people used it to catapult an up-to-now, successful revolution. The government showed its weakness in shutting it down within a day of protests. After all the gadgets and gizmos are put away, revolutions are inescapably grinded down to what they are really made of: flesh and blood. After all, Thomas Jefferson once said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

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Catastrophes Strengthen Bonds Between Australia and New Zealand

By William Blyndenburgh

New Zealand and Australia plan to create a joint crisis center, Greg Ansley from the New Zealand Herald reports. New Zealand’s HMNZS Canterbury, commissioned in 2007, will be the focal point of this undertaking. Australia and New Zealand have historically looked to each other in times of need. The two nations’ Prime Ministers, John Key (NZ) and Julia Gillard (Aus) have published an article together stressing how the futures of both countries are intertwined. An Excerpt from their article Anzac not a Name but a Way of Thinking states, “The outpouring of sup-port and sympathy in both our countries following the recent flooding in Australia, Cyclone Yasi, the Canterbury earthquake, and the Pike River Mine tragedy, are moving reminders of our close relationship.”

While this article was being written, a 6.3 earthquake has once again hit the Canterbury region of New Zealand. The website of the NZ Herald, my primary source, is not available at this point. Their twitter reads, however, that “All hands [are] on deck here in the newsroom but battling with huge tech issues.” Buildings are reported to have collapsed and the likelihood of deaths is greater than during the 7.3 magnitude earthquake of last year. The region has been bombarded with aftershocks since then, and many of the buildings, weakened, have just come crumbling down. This destruction occurred during business hours, unlike the last one, which points to the likelihood of numerous casualties. A user posted on NZ Herald’s twitter, claiming “just spoke to my parents in Christchurch and it’s much worse than the last big one; it’s like the [buildings] that survived the last one came down”. Unofficial photos of the devastation show a crippled business district and surrounding areas. While the chaos isn’t yet sorted, the one thing that can be said is that New Zealand won’t have to face it alone.

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The Eye of Rah Still Watches: The Egyptian Revolution

By Peter Rice

The germ of democracy is alive and well as a wave of justice and empowerment ripples through the Arab world and beyond. Though the objectives of protesters may differ, the aim re-mains the same: end the reign of oppressive rulers. Throwing a stone into the still sea of oppres-sion, the youth of Egypt have seemingly awoken people who dare change the world. The changes that will ultimately come out of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 are still undetermined, but it is certainly a start towards a more free world.

A statement made by President Ronald Reagan during his second inaugural address in 1985 seems to express the feelings of young Arabs who are desperately seeking governmental alterations today. Hunting for changes himself, President Reagan said, “If not us, who? And if not now, when?” Eagerness to live the future today has always driven the ambitions of revolutionaries, but ambition alone will almost certainly fail because changes without plans are too fallible. Even with plans things can go wrong, but it is always better to be in a lifeboat when the ship has gone down. With this in mind, let us see what the Egyptians have planned thus far.

In the Arab world, Egypt is a populous nation with a youthful face. But under Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak, their spirits were crippled and subdued. Rising to power through the military, President Mubarak had been a commanding presence in Egypt’s war with Israel in 1973, then under the leadership of Anwar Sadat. When Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by Islamist officers, Mubarak stepped into power as Egypt’s new president under Emergency Rules that never would expire. Since that time, he had created an authoritarian regime that suppressed its people. Over the course of 30 years, more than two generations of Egyptians could study whatever they wanted, but without connections to the regime it was nearly impossible to get good jobs. Weak-ened, but not beaten, the youth of Egypt finally demanded that there be a minimum wage, parlia-ment dissolved, and emergency rules lifted, but no one listened. Frustrated and enraged, Egyptian protestors stormed the streets calling for the president to step down. Stubbornly, President Mubarak played with fire as he toyed with the emotions of his people by giving vague messages of his intentions. It was hard to determine if Mubarak had any real plans of giving into the protestors’ demands and leaving office. However, on Friday, February 11th of 2011, it was announced that Mubarak was stepping down. Celebrations were palpable, and Cairo was on cloud nine. But now the real work begins.

All eyes have now turned to Egypt’s military. As a trusted and stable institution of Egypt, the military – be it mysteriously veiled behind a lack of writing about its affairs – has begun to manage the interim government. Egyptian schools and businesses are being encouraged to continue their day-to-day activities, even though their constitution has been suspended and parlia-ment dissolved. Getting things back to normal is important for Egypt’s economy and tourism industries. Yet, protestors are weary of giving up their fight before all of their demands and as-pirations for real democracy have been met. As a result, ambulance drivers, police officers, and others alike have continued to hold protests while the military takes care of the government with Mubarak loyalists still inside. The military only wants to create stability because they fear that volatility will quickly turn into illegal actions, but the military seems to also be aware that the people have goals of their own. That is why the youth have been encouraged to form political parties that meet regularly, continue to talk with representatives of the youth movement, and adhere to a six month timetable that has been established to create a constitution and newly elected government.

Even with all of these actions, there is still uncertainty in Egypt. When a new government is created, will the army cede power to the citizen, or will they look to maintain it primarily for them-selves? If left up to the people, will the Muslim Brotherhood take over? Is Egypt even ready for democracy?

There are no definitive answers to these questions, but there are speculations. When considering the military, their officers have expressed an eager desire to turn over power and return to their industrial interest of food, vehicle, and construction projects. However, some have questioned the military’s exclusion of civilians from governmental affairs as a sign of things to come. As for the question of the Muslim Brotherhood, this has been a revolution of Christians and Muslims alike. Therefore, some believe that the overall principles of democracy will reign supreme because the desire for change and freedom is just too strong. How the democratic system will develop in Egypt is unclear. But the United States is certainly going to try its best to see a type of western democracy take hold in the sands of Egypt.

It is important to remember that democracies require the full support of the people, and even through the best of intentions, they do not always work the first time. Remember that after the American Revolution, the new federal government had to cement its authority over the people, while protecting their rights. This was a difficult task considering the rebellious fever that had spread across the thirteen states. Yet the founding fathers were always willing to take on this ambiguously difficult task. For example, to help pay off the newly acquired federal debt of the revolution, a tax was placed on distilled liquor. This liquor tax had upset struggling farmers on the western frontier because it cut into their livelihood. As a result, the law was largely ignored. Was it a right of the people to refuse to pay a tax deemed unfair? Or was it an act of defiance that justified police action because it was a tax of the democratically represented government? What-ever the right answer was, Alexander Hamilton was horrified and called on George Washington to mobilize his army of militiamen to suppress the rebellion. In this slice of American history, the struggles of a new democracy can be seen. It also shows that the army, an arm of a government, can fight for or against the people as circumstances change. Looking towards Egypt, I see it facing similar, but unique challenges. Overall, the main questions that will continue to be asked today are: Will the citizens of Egypt run their own government? And what role will their military play in the future? We will just have to wait and see how their history unfolds.

The spirit of Egypt’s revolution is now echoing across the Middle East. Iran, Bahrain, and Yemen have seen signs of increased unrest among demonstrators who are calling for governmental reforms. Beyond this, protests have also broken out in Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. What the future holds for Egypt and these nations is yet to be revealed. Yet, it is clear that the seed of democracy is being planted across the Middle East. Even if the plant that grows from it withers away, the ideas locked within it have the capability to lie dormant amidst the people until the conditions are right for it to grow again. Therefore, like the protective eye of Rah, the world can only watch.

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Fluoride in Our Drinking Water

By Melissa Vasiliades

Federal officials announced recently that the fluoride levels in the U.S. water supply should be limited because the additive is damaging children’s teeth; they are acknowledging the first re-strictions in over 50 years of public water supply. According to a Bloomberg.com article written by authors Cortez and Wayne, the Department of Health and Human Services explains how drinking water should contain the lowest amount of the mineral, while the Environmental Protection Agency reviews the maximum level allowable.

This change stems from the rising rates of fluorosis, which is a discoloration and damage of tooth enamel now found in more than one in three American children. Fluorosis is caused by the increased amount of fluoride children’s teeth come in contact with during their growth process, generally from ages one to eight, according to the CDC. The condition causes permanent damage to enamel coating, with most cases showing up as small streaks or specks of white. It may include brown discoloration and rough, pitted surfaces, the agency stated. This is only the surface of the fluoride related damage. Fluoridation of our water has been linked to damaging the immune system, musculoskeletal harm, genetic damage, thyroid dysfunction, and even cancer.

Since 1945, the US government has been adding fluoride to our drinking water without having any solid proof that ingesting fluoride was beneficial to our teeth and with no safety tests conducted to determine its potential effects on the rest of the human body. Nevertheless, mass medication of the country’s water supply began. Every other chemical added to our tap water, except Fluoride, serves the purpose of improving the water’s safety. Fluoride is the only chemical added for the purpose of medication. And this medication comes with a litany of potential side effects. The City of Grand Rapids (MI website, www.grand-rapids.mi.us) was the first community to add fluoride to its public water supply. In the early 1900s, a Colorado dentist realized that some of his patients had very few cavities and thought this to be the result of naturally high levels of fluoride in the water. In the 1930s, studies found that one part per million—roughly one droplet in a bathtub full of water—would prevent cavities without causing mottled enamel.

For over five decades, the American Dental Association has continuously endorsed the fluoridation of community water supplies and the use of fluoride-containing products as safe and effective measures for preventing tooth decay. Community water fluoridation remains the model for dental disease prevention, attempting to have us believe it is saving Americans billions of dollars and untold suffering every year. More than 72 % of Americans on public systems drink water with fluoride, a part of the nation’s defense against tooth decay for 65 years, according to the Atlanta Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The additive should be limited to 0.7 milligrams in each liter of drinking water; the low end of the government recommended fluoride levels of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams a liter since 1962, claimed HHS. Additionally, the past five Surgeons General have strongly supported community water fluoridation and encouraged communities to fluoridate their water. My question is, “Why is any level recommended, when fluoride is clearly poisonous?”

There is an ongoing debate on the addition of fluoride in our water supply. Fluoride is considered a poison in large doses but toxic levels cannot be achieved by drinking fluoridated water. Scientists continue to collect data to determine the toxicity of fluoride in drinking water. Today’s research shows that fluoride is not safe to ingest and the areas that do fluoridate their drinking water supply actually have higher rates of cavities, cancer, dental fluorosis, and osteoporosis. Nevertheless, its use has seen an enormous push from the aluminum industry and weapons manufacturers, as well as from pharmaceutical companies.

Let me explain further. Richard Webb’s blog offers definitions. Nature provides an edible organic salt which is insoluble in water and can be assimilated by the human body. This substance, calcium-flourophosphate, builds and strengthens our bones and teeth. We all need it: our children, es-pecially, as they are constantly growing both tooth and bone. There is no doubt that without this salt the human body would lack strength and tooth decay would be of pandemic proportions.

There is another substance called Sodium Flouride, a by-product of the aluminum industry, which has been a major pollutant of rivers and streams since 1900. This product is extremely harmful; it poisons all animal life that consumes it and can cause death even in small quantities; moreover, no effective antidote has yet been found. This very same sodium fluoride, which we now drink in the name of fighting tooth decay, has been used as rat poison for nearly 40 years. It is the cheapest and most effective rat killer known to chemists: colorless, odorless, and tasteless. So-dium Fluoride cannot be assimilated by the body. It becomes instant poison because it cannot be eliminated without extreme effort from your kidneys; Sodium Fluoride will always be a build up in the body’s system. It is also an ingredient in the current drug of choice for depression and Prozac; that alone has me wondering, “Why is something poisonous a part of our daily lives?”

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The Cost of Global Warming

By Stephen Sullivan

Recent studies by global food experts suggest that the effects of climate change may extend to the prices of agriculture, and therefore food prices. It is projected that there will be an increase of nearly 12 degrees F by the year 2050, which may lead to significant problems for farmers. The drastic rise in food prices (with some estimates projecting an increase of 100% in the price of corn) would be the result of a decrease in productivity and increase in demand. The release of greenhouse gas emissions by unregulated industries and poor decision-making is increasing at an alarming rate in concurrence with the growth of the world population. The green initiative has grown momentum, but according to these studies done by experts, that may not be enough.

The International Food Policy Research Institute report states, “Unlike the 20th century, when real agricultural prices declined, the first half of the 21st century is likely to see increases in real agricultural prices.” The implications of this study suggest poorer countries and lower income societies will be affected most. The study estimates that there may be an increase of about 25 million malnourished children in the world due to rising food costs.

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