The Relation Between the Police in America and the Middle East

The date is December 17th, 2010 and the setting is Tunisia. Mohamed Bouazizi, a humble 26 year old vegetable seller is carrying on with his daily business. One of the municipal officials and her aides decide to confiscate his belongings as well as humiliate him publicly. It is important to note that this single event was not the catalyst, but it was the culmination of many abuses of Ben Ali’s regime. Bouazizi’s retaliation was amongst the most symbolic acts of protests in the 20th century, to light himself on fire, an act that would claim his life. Such an act is reminiscent of Tibetan Monks protesting the Chinese government or even the great Carthaginian Commander Hannibal who poisoned himself as a last act of defiance against the Romans. Unbeknownst to Bouazizi, this act would trigger waves of protest across the surrounding nations, the likes of which would topple regimes, including his own.

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Fast forward to August 9th, 2014. This time, the location of the event is across the world in the American town of Ferguson, Missouri. Michael Brown, a young black man, is walking in the middle of the road and is confronted by officer Darren Wilson. An unarmed Brown is shot and killed, his body left on the ground for hours before it is removed. This event was not the first of its kind and certainly not the last. Years earlier, unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin is shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Florida. More recently, an older black man and Coast Guard veteran was shot in the back several times and killed while trying to flee from a police officer. The victim’s name was Walter Scott and the perpetrator was Michael Slager, an officer from North Charleston, South Carolina.

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In examining the cases of Bouazizi and Michael Brown, along with many similar cases from both regions, it becomes evident that the two events share a common factor. This is that those charged with protecting their respective constituents have engaged in unfair and illegal abuses against those very individuals. Why compare two parts of the world that have been at odds for much of recent history? This comparison reveals that even in two areas that consider themselves radically different from one another, similar problems would reveal otherwise. The fact of the matter is that there may be truth in the fact that the international community is more linked than may be immediately visible. The common denominator here is police brutality and abuse of power, which is unchecked by governments. This is an issue that must be confronted internationally whether it be in America, Tunisia, or other areas such as Hong Kong or Russia. The belief that this issue is specific to one location is a very dangerous misconception and when it begins to be viewed as a global problem, it can be unilaterally targeted and solved. Until this is done, it is likely that the international community will continue to live in fear of the very people that are tasked with protecting them.

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Yemen: America’s Newest Proxy War

The Gulf State of Yemen has been in turmoil and plagued by civil war since the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh abdicated office in 2012. On one side is the Sunni-backed regime and on the other is the Shiite Houthi Militia.

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Recently in the news, the Houthis have been making advances, which threaten to undermine the existing status quo of a regime that has maintained power through corruption and power sharing. Their control of the nation’s capitol, Sana’a, have forced the sitting president (And Rabbu Mansour Hadi) to flee the nation. Their presence has been interpreted as a means for Iran to further its influence in the region. Given that this in the sphere of influence of the Saudis as well as the rest of the Gulf States, the Sunni regimes have decided to involve themselves, also. Furthermore, a threat to Saudi power is taken seriously by the United States have oil interests to protect in the region. Alternatively, any advance of Shi’a power is viewed as beneficiary to Iran, which both Israel and the United States consider the biggest threat to their power. y The result of elevating tensions caused by these events has resulted in several heavy airstrikes of Houthi military bases as well as the capitol. The Saudi defense minister has also vowed to continue the strikes in order to weaken the militants. While the Gulf Cooperation Council is entering this struggle, the United States is providing support and encouragement at a distance as Secretary of State John Kerry revealed that the White House plans to provide further logistical and intelligence support. If this was not a proxy war before, it certainly is becoming one now. A side effect of these bombings is the unlikely support that the Houthis have found within the country. Former President Saleh has pledged his support for their cause as areas still loyal to him were also struck. This partnership is a surprise given that Saleh fought the Houthis for a long duration throughout his presidency. Whether or not this partnership will be of any use to the militants is still to be decided, but it certainly lends the support of those loyal to Saleh. Ultimately, if this becomes a proxy war, then much more will be at stake than the control of the Yemeni government. The Islamic State declaring their involvement in causing further chaos through recent suicide bombings will not help the situation either.

California’s Drought Issue and Nestle

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Nestle is an international organization that boasts millions in profits from different products, one of them being bottled water. The focus of this piece will center on the drought occurring in California, United States and how Nestle is causing further damage. The presence of a bottled water industry in the United States is beyond reason as water has been regulated and filtered to the point that tap water is as clean as bottled water. Furthermore, the documentary Last Call at the Oasis from Jessica Yu reveals bottled water is less regulated than tap water. In the case of Nestle’s presence in California, bottled water sold by the organization is actually taken from their capitol, Sacramento, and resold at a significant profit.

The California drought has been around for four years now, but it has escalated significantly as a result of a record high temperatures this winter, which causes dry conditions that are not favorable for farming. The agriculture industry in California relies heavily on water as it consumes 41 percent of the state’s total supply. Due to this scarcity, farmers have begun practices that are causing more environmental damage such as drilling deeper for groundwater, but many have been forced to seek other means of employment. Another important angle to view this is that many of the nation’s vegetables and nuts are grown best in that region. For example, almonds from the United States are grown there exclusively, which is why affects the country as a whole. For that reason, this should be viewed as a national state of emergency as opposed one at only the state level.

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Meanwhile, Nestle continues to do what major corporations do best, exploit resources without a regard to the quality of life that they are damaging. How can this be? Their website explicitly states that they are committed to environmental sustainability. This may fool the uninformed citizen, as many wish to remain, but many have taken to protesting the organization’s presence in Sacramento. Recently, the governor of California unrolled a new plan in which billions of dollars would be reallocated to dealing with this crisis. The real issue here, however, is that corporations such as Nestle continue to exploit already depleted resources for their own personal gain. This is the issue that must be addressed moving forward as the quality of the planet’s environment is decreasing and the global footprint of large multinational corporations continues to grow.

Racism and the International Black Community

It has been years since Barack Obama became the first black President of the United States and the most powerful individual on the planet. It has been even longer since Nelson Mandela emerged triumphantly from the South African apartheid state as their new president. Given the progress of the black community internationally, does racism continue to affect this demographic? In examining the circumstances of a few nations, the reality of the situation become much more evident.

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It is only fitting that the first nation to be discussed is United States given its standing in international politics and its image as a beacon of equality. The most recent news on the topic highlights police bias towards African Americans, which has lead to a high number of black deaths. One figure, for example, reveals that over 5,000 civilians (mainly latino and black Americans) have been killed by a predominantly white police force. An equally serious issue is the denial of this racism by many politicians, despite the fact that it has been proven. Many individuals of significant influence, mostly in the GOP, attempt to maintain the status quo, which is not an issue. In this case, however, the status quo is plagued with racism. A recent report from the Justice Department finds that Ferguson Police Department has taken a predatory approach to policing. In examining these facts surrounding the racism within the United States, it becomes evident that a serious change is necessary if they are to uphold their underserved reputation.

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After crossing the Atlantic Ocean, one of the closest nations is the United Kingdom, which is also a melting pot of cultures for various reason such as university or employment. This Western nation, which at one point commanded an empire extending across various regions, also struggles with racial prejudice. While the current issue in the nation is Islamophobia, racism towards the black population is evident in everyday culture. A large discussion recently is being had in regards to racism in football. This was spurred by a video displaying fans of the Chelsea football team chanting racist slurs and not allowing a black man to enter a train in Paris. Given the location of this incident and the fact that the bystanders did not discourage these passengers, it is fair to conclude that France also suffers from this form of racism to some degree.

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The final country that will be examined is Israel. This nation is often made out to be a center of tolerance and democracy in an otherwise intolerant region. The validity of this perception is as relevant as the treatment of their black community. In this specific case, the racism targets Ethiopian Jews and it is severe. This population faces constant discrimination in the form of verbal and physical abuse, unequal socioeconomic conditions, and even deportation. Despite the right of return that is afforded all Jews in the nation, their is a definite biased approach to granting asylum to African refugees. Out of 17,778 Africans, mostly Jews, only 45 have been granting refugee status. The rest were denied and withdrawn or even imprisoned. This reveals a pattern of racist behavior within the Israeli nation.

These nations all share one significant similarity, which is that they are all democracies which are held in high regards. The reason for which they have been chosen is to demonstrate that racism against the black community is very well alive and flourishing today. It reveals that this reality can be found anywhere and even those nations whose fundamental principles oppose it, are guilty of creating such an atmosphere. Although the international community has come a long way, they still have a long way to go.

College Debt: A Growing Problem

Most college and high school students, alumni, and parents know that paying for college has become a small fortune. For that reason, loans become the only option for college hopefuls as they seek a better and more profitable future. This problem is not limited to America, but unfortunately has grown to encompass higher education in the UK, Canada, China, and Japan amongst many others. Given that student debt has become such an issue, why are the same lending practices allowed to continue?

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The first reason concerns the benefit this provides both universities as well as their governments. For example, the United States Treasury takes in around 130$ a month from the social security benefits of anyone over 65 with student loan debt, a demographic which includes over three quarters of a million households in that country alone. One important detail to bear in mind is the fact that social security benefits are not substantial to begin with and therefore, any money that is collected out of that sum will significantly impact this population. This detail reveals that student loan debt effects individuals of many demographics, not just millennials as is the popular belief. The government attempts to subsidize these payments with various grants, but the reality of the situation is that it gives these institutions the opportunity to increase their tuitions. As this vicious cycle continues, it is quite evident that the government and universities will continue to benefit at the expense of those seeking education and a better life.

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The second reason is the lack of resistance to these practices. The simple fact that the amount of individuals applying to these institutions continues to increase yearly serves to enable these price increases and for the government to continue lending. Students finally appear to be taking a stand, or at their efforts are at least being publicized. The Corinthian 15, as they have come to be known, are a group of students who are taking a stand against the especially predatory Corinthian Colleges. The students are refusing to pay their debt to the chain of for-profit colleges and despite only making a small difference, they are turning national attention towards a problem that is often overlooked. In recognizing the potential catastrophe large amounts of student debt may result in, it may definitely be in the interest government to fix this issue immediately.

Oklahoma’s American History Problem: Too True to Tell?

Recently, a new bill has been proposed in the United States’ Oklahoma. This bill, authored by Republican Representative Dan Fisher, seeks to eliminate funding for college-level American history courses in high schools. Politicians in the state are claiming that the course is unpatriotic. Unfortunately, these individuals may not have realized that history is often complicated. The answer, however, cannot be to rewrite it in order to add to the undeserved attitude of superiority many American now possess.

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Many of the individuals who are more educated in the true history of their nation, as one may notice in universities, often do not posses an unrealistic view of their nation. Any student of political science who has received a proper education in United States history knows their nation, similar to others, has made mistakes. Simply creating a new curriculum that does not include the genocide of the Native American people or the Japanese Internment Camps is as great a crime as the atrocities themselves. Why? This is because to deprive the country’s youth of the mistakes and triumphs of their nation’s history is to slander the memory of those who were unjustly forced into slavery, made to move into reservations, or had their rights sacrificed for the sake of safety. Furthermore, it is creating a generation of individuals with an inflated pride of their nation that will more than likely become detrimental for future efforts in establishing international relationships. In conclusion, unless the nation has plans on adopting an isolationist policy, this small gesture can have significant future implications.

This article from The Onion provides a great satirical view of the situation.