The Global Citizen: Get Involved
Some may call it "hopelessly naïve" but no one can say that Google Chariman Eric Schmidt's four day trip to North Korea, where he was photographed walking through the streets surrounded by North Korean people, did not have an impact on the mindsets of people ordinarily closed off to the outside world. For more than half a century, North Korea has maintained its tightly state-controlled system and built up its nuclear weapons program, keeping foreign invaders at bay, while millions of its citizens are at the same time dying from food shortages. The United States government has, understandably, hesitated to act; however, it is about time we let somebody else try to negotiate with the Kim dynasty.
Two weeks ago GlobalSolutions.org CEO, Don Kraus, reminded us of the proliferation of bullets worldwide and of the essentially non-existent regulations currently governing international trade of weapons and ammunition. These issues are especially relevant as we start a new year, resolving to make right the mass tragedies of 2012.
The growing number of gun violence victims in our country hit home for me on Dec. 1, 2012 when Kassandra Perkins, a 22 year-old in my high school graduating class and a loving mother, was killed by her Kansas City Chiefs linebacker boyfriend after being shot nine times in the head with a firearm. Sadly, I had hardly interacted with Kassandra, but I was nonetheless overwhelmed by the shock and sadness of knowing someone close to me had been viciously killed. Her death made the tragedy that had already occurred in Aurora feel all the more real to me.
It seems that every morning brings a fresh headline that documents another grotesque violation of girls and women's human rights. From the horrifying New Delhi and Steubenville gang rape cases, to gender-based violence all over the world, it seems that the world is finally waking up to the discrimination and victim-blaming that women endure. I am noticing more and more that people - women and men - are getting fed up with these abuses to human rights.
They put their lives on the line for us daily. They make sacrifices that I myself could not be able to fathom. Yet women in the military are denied the same rights to basic health care that other citizens have.
Under current law, if a woman solider is raped and becomes pregnant, she cannot use her military health plan to pay for an abortion. She would be forced to seek health care outside of the military base, which often is very dangerous. But Senator Jeanne Shaheen is working to reverse this glaring human rights violation.
The New Hampshire Senator is the creator of Amendment 1120 (also known as the Shaheen Amendment), which would protect enlisted women so that they can have the same health care as the very citizens they protect. A case where an enlisted woman was raped by a fellow soldier reveals how unjust our current laws are. Jessica Kenyon* was raped and denied access to health care on the military base in Korea where she was stationed. There were no other safe health care alternatives where she was, and because of these circumstances that were beyond her control, she was given no other choice but to leave and give up her military career. She later miscarried.
Yesterday was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In December of 1999, the United Nations created this day to highlight how gender based violence affects billions of women all over the world, which in turn affects the economic capacity of their communities and nations.
Over a decade later, women’s human rights are just now starting to take center stage. The 2012 election put a record number of women in the Senate— but we have yet to reach political parity. Efforts to end gender-based violence are underway, yet there remains the haunting statistic that one in three women will be raped or attacked in her lifetime. Just recently in Ireland, Savita Halappanavar was left by doctors to die because she was denied an abortion—a case that made international news and spurred hundreds of protests throughout the world.
In 2005, several hundred small bags of fertilizer began washing up on in the mangroves of a village in Guinea-Bissau. The villagers were catching it on their fishing lines and began using it to fertilize their soil until they realized that it seemed to be killing plants instead of enhancing their growth.
What they did not realize until later was that this white powdery substance that washed up from a run-aground cargo ship, was not, in fact, a fertilizer; but rather, it was the narcotic drug cocaine. And by the time the majority of the population realized it, an illicit drug trade was already underway.
US researchers currently estimate that over 30 tons of cocaine pass through Guinea-Bissau every year. In 2010, before Sierra Leone's international airport had security measures like metal detectors and scanners, it was estimated that over 60 tons of cocaine passed through it in transit. By some estimates, a quarter of all European cocaine arrives from a transit point Africa.
Candy Crowley, I want to start by congratulating you on the great job you did moderating the Town Hall Presidential Debate. But disappointed doesn't begin to express how I feel about a question you didn't choose from the audience. You had a chance get the candidates on record on how they will deal with climate change and you blew it.
Some great topics were debated last night, but unless Bob Schieffer changes his mind and adds global warming to his issue list in next week's foreign policy forum, this will be the first presidential election since before 1980 in which the presidential and vice presidential debate series did not include a direct question about climate change, environmental protection or conservation.
A whole bunch of us tried to make it easy for you. Over 160,000 signed petitions that went to both you and Jim Lehrer. Google and the Commission on Presidential Debate asked folks to weigh in on important topics for the Town Hall debate, and over 11,000 chose "What actions will you take to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions?" as the most popular question. You ignored all of us.
Men, boys, let us be bold. Let us speak the truth and stand up for the rights of girls and women to equality, dignity, and the rights we all share. –Desmond Tutu, Chair of The Elders
Today we celebrate the first ever International Day of the Girl. If you have read my past blog posts, you know how I feel about how essential girls are for the prosperity of the world’s nations. International studies have declared the biggest untapped resource lies in girls and their potential to contribute to society. Yet, girls and women all over the world are being held back.
Held back by injuries and death in childbirth—80% of cases that are preventable.
Held back by domestic abuse, violence, and rape.
Over the last two months, the team here at GlobalSolutions.org has been working to make climate change a bigger election issue this cycle, starting with the first presidential debate on October 3rd hosted by Jim Lehrer of PBS's NewsHour. This morning, GlobalSolutions.org, along with eight other organizations like the League of Conservation Voters and the Environmental Defense Fund, delivered over 160,000 of your petitions to the Newshour offices. Representatives for NewsHour accepted our petitions and guaranteed that our voices would be heard by Mr. Lehrer. According to one staff member, this petition is the largest they have received this election cycle.
"Bringing that dark chapter into light helps clarify and sharpen what we mean when we say never again. But despite all we have learned and accomplished in the last 70 years, never again remains an unmet, urgent goal."
Addressing a crowd of 200 onlookers at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the legacy of the Holocaust at a forum entitled "Imagining the Unimaginable: Ending Genocide in the 21st Century." The pledge that never again should the world stand by while millions are killed in genocide was a central theme to her keynote speech. To remember our history and learn from past mistakes is the best way to prevent and put an end to genocide in the 21st Century. Human nature did not dramatically change when the Holocaust ended, she noted, therefore, our history continues to show that putting an end to mass atrocities must still be a priority for the international community.
But how can the international community end genocide? Clinton praised the new emphasis on prevention-worldwide education efforts and Foreign Service officers sent to at-risk countries are now being trained to watch for the warning signs. Genocide does not just erupt and explode in a single moment; over time an environment is created where "hatred is not only acceptable, it is encouraged." This "license to hate, turns into the license to kill," Clinton said.
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