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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ISIS and Syria’s Palestinian Refugees

As the Islamic State continues their campaign of terror in the Middle East, the Palestinians have found themselves to be victims yet again. In fact, these individuals have found themselves in between a rock and a hard place with nobody to defend them as they are a stateless people.

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On April 1st, Islamic State forces entered the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus for the first time. Since the fighting broke out three years ago, the camp has been reduced from 200,000 to only 15,000 residents. Putting aside the identity of the camp’s inhabitants, this is a serious issue. Furthermore, this issue can be generalized to represent the struggle of minorities within the war-torn nation.

This situation is representative of the overall issue that is not just the Islamic State, but how the international community has reacted to their campaign. If one is to recall, the Iraqi Kurds were in a tough place not too long ago and it took too long to provide them the support they desperately needed. As the West continues to back Syrian Rebels, one reason ISIS came to power as fast as they did, the minorities that were under Assad’s protection are the ones getting hurt.

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The main takeaway from this is that the West must allow the minorities to defend themselves by first discontinuing arms to the rebels, who have demonstrated a disregard for casualties that is truly comparable to the Assad regime. The second lesson is that the minorities need to be given proper resources so that they may defend themselves and protect their land. This is the ultimate indication of the trouble that international tampering into the community has caused. These nations and people must be left to resolve this issue, which was not entirely caused by them in the first place, so that they may finally have peace and stability.

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.

The American Government and Corporations: A Love Story

The United States government fights harder for its corporations than for its citizens. This is a statement that should be refuted by the  American citizenry, who have faith in their elected officials. Unfortunately, an assertion such as this will find very little opposition given the current state of politics. Shockingly, a study has found that 79% of Americans believe their government is corrupt. This demonstrates an established belief system that reflects negatively on the nation and its leadership.

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It cannot be said how it got to the point that it is now. When politicians leave their positions in order to pursue business ambitions and vice-versa. What can be examined, however, is that the current state of politics is a mess because of the goal has not been to change the country for the better, but to shape perceptions. Upon receiving office, re-election is amongst the first things that crosses an incumbent’s mind. As a result, campaign donors are always in the back of their mind. Logically, it can be concluded that this is the vicious cycle that reinforces the powerful connection between the public and private sector.

This is not only an issue of perception, as it is increasingly making headlines and undermining the credibility of the nation’s leadership. Specifically, there exists an image of the GOP cozying up to big business and Wall Street. More often than not, these public views are misleading, but in this case they are not far from the truth. There is no better indication of this than the battle that is being held between the Obama Administration and Congress. Given the revelation that corporations are moving their headquarters abroad in order to avoid paying larger taxes, the administration rolled out a plan to make them pay for those taxes that were being dodged. Republican politicians, however, have already vowed to stop this from passing through congress. These organizations are not held accountable for not honoring the taxation system when the average individual faces serious consequences when they make a mistake. This reality is extremely troubling and is not something that would be expected from a representative democracy, especially not the United States.

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This problem is not simply a GOP issue, its an problem that extends to the entirety of the government.The current issue surrounding corruption regards Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey. The government is close to charging him with corruption charges for actions that have been carried out for several years. He is a Democrat. Corruption is not partisan, it has no preferences. Last year, Republican Eric Cantor was voted out of office and immediately found a new home on Wall Street. What does this suggest? It sheds light on the fact that big business and politics may be more interwoven than is immediately evident. If this is not frightening to the American public, what the future holds might be.

Their is one absolute certainty in regards to American politics in the future, besides the fact that the government will more than likely remain a mess. That is Hillary Clinton’s bid for presidency. What many fail to understand is that the democratic politician is more in bed with corporations than most other individuals in Washington. Having served on the board of directors of Wal-Mart and considering they have been nothing less than generous to the Clinton Foundation, there is no doubt that she will not be leading the charge to condemn corporations. Due to these facts, some are claiming Clinton may be a favorite for Republicans, also. Moving forward the American citizens must ask themselves, do they want someone to fight for their rights or the rights of corporations?

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.

The Gulf States’ Migrant Worker Problem

The Gulf States are notorious for their vast oil wealth, with which they have been able to form powerful allies. As a result, much of their affairs are overlooked or accepted, despite their questionable nature. One such feature is their treatment of migrant workers and the means by which they restrict their freedoms.

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The migrant workers of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Kuwait make up a significant portion of the population of these nations, yet they receive minimal benefits if any. The individuals come from all over Africa and Asia as well as from the Gulf States themselves. This system is known as Kafala, in which an individual is allowed to work in one of these nations if they are sponsored by an employer. This relationship becomes very similar to indentured servitude, however, when the sponsors refuse to allow the workers to further themselves and seek better employment. The workers are often made to pay off the cost of the sponsorship, which cripples their chance for social mobility if they still wish to send remittances to their families abroad. This creates a very difficult situation for the workers and is all too often the case.

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A large portion of the migrants work construction in these countries, which are building their infrastructure through the exploitation of these individuals. Even more shocking than the Kafala system itself is the death toll and treatment the workers. For example, a report revealed that almost 1,000 migrants perished while working construction in 2012-2013 in Qatar alone. This is without mentioning the sexual and physical abuse that is a constant factor, also. Unfortunately, the power and wealth held by the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council makes fixing the situation more difficult. Organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are exposing these crimes, but it is the duty of the international community to pressure these nations to enact change.