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.

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Should Netanyahu Have Addressed the U.S. Congress?

Short Answer: After objectively examining the the Prime Minister of Israel’s visit to Congress, the answer is no.

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The first problem is the context of his visit. The United State’s government is significantly divided and polarized. This rift has negatively impacted the country and its population who are more than likely not benefitting from a relationship with Israel. The party that is most benefitting from that relationship is Israel themselves, but given their socioeconomic conditions, they do not need the United States. Israel is a developed nation with a democracy and a thriving and extremely entrepreneurial private sector. Therefore, they are innovative and can survive on their own. In understanding this, it becomes somewhat confusing as to why much of the American population welcome this individual at the expense of disrespecting their president.

Any individual who has followed Middle Eastern politics to some degree has a general understanding of how the current Israeli government has an unwavering disdain towards Iran. This can be attributed to many reasons such as their support of Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party and militia. In the speech given by “Bibi”, in which he warned that in establishing an agreement with Iran would only aid their efforts in creating nuclear weapons. President Obama’s did not make the effort to watch, but read the script later. His response to the Prime Minister is that he proposed no reasonable alternatives and is not entirely wrong.

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The only evidence necessary in this particular situation is history itself. President Obama’s assertion that no valuable suggestions were made is not without truth as the Prime Minister only insisted that the United States continue their efforts to restrict Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In looking to historical instances where sanctions and similar practices were unsuccessful, a couple significant instances can be examined. One of these instances includes sanctions against Japan in the pre-WWII period, which resulted in the bombing of Peal Harbor. The second instance, which is significantly more relevant as it is a more current example is that of North Korea. This is the perfect comparison as it has sanctions imposed on it by many nations, including the United States, yet it has been able to acquire nuclear arms. Therefore, it becomes evident that placing restrictions on Iran, is not a reliable option for ending or postponing their nuclear ambitions.

In conclusion, the long answer to the question is also no. Benjamin Netanyahu should not have been invited or accepted the invitation to address the United States congress. The speech will probably not change how Obama Administration will proceed and it should not, as the United States is a nation that should act in the manner it perceives will be the most effective. Furthermore, it may be within reason for the international community to question why other nations have nuclear arms, such as Israel itself.

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.

 

Why Boko Haram is as Dangerous as ISIS

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The Islamic State is what makes the headlines, but Boko Haram is no less of a threat to peace. The unfortunate truth is that the already neglected population within Nigeria and its surrounding nations are victims of political circumstances. The government has a history of neglecting its population and continually is listed as one of the most corrupt in the world. In the most recent 2014 polling, it was placed in the 16th percentile. Much of this can be attributed to the country’s vast oil wealth. More than likely, the country falls under the category of corrupt oil regimes, similar to many of the Gulf Nations such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless, the lack of attention given by the government to the people creates an environment in which organizations may emerge as “protectors of the people”. Historically, this can be seen through the rise of the Bolsheviks under Lenin against the corrupt regime of Tsar Nicholas II. More recently, this can be seen in the rise and support of Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has been able to transition into the dominant political party in the country. Therefore, in learning from the past, this organization may very well evolve to become a threat throughout much more of Africa and the world.

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Boko Haram and the Islamic State are both share in the same hypocrisy. Both have declared goals of establishing caliphates. When watching Fox or CNN, this theme continuously is brought up and is made to be the main objective for both groups. The truth, however, may be that these organizations exist in order to rebel against the powers that have created a system that oppresses their populations. Another possible explanation is that they are seeking to redraw the largely unrepresentative boundaries that were drawn by colonial powers. The reason for questioning the stated intentions of expanding the influence of Islam is that both Boko Haram and ISIS have deliberately fought against largely Islamic governments. When examined, this is illogical, which points to other motives. In conclusion,  critical examination of the circumstances surrounding Boko Haram’s presence reveals they are more similar to the more well known Islamic State than not. Their continued presence reveals that the existing systems cannot continue to operate on the same fashion and significant change is necessary.

Why the Pope is Overstepping his Boundaries

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The popularity of Pope Francis is well-deserved as he has finally brought the Catholic Christian faith out of the middle ages. His concern for the well-being of the poor indicates his use of papal authority to positively affect the world. Similarly, his belief that the gay community should not suffer abuses reveals that he would rather promote compassion as opposed to judgement. These, among many other actions taken by the Bishop of Rome, have made him a celebrity of sorts in the political and religious worlds. Unfortunately, the Pope is using his status to venture into the political realm. While this is not uncommon of individuals that have held his position, or other religious leaders, lines must be drawn.

The issue with the Pope’s position in society arises when he forsakes his obligations in order to advance a political agenda. The first example of this is the Pope’s acceptance of John Boehner’s invitation to address Congress in the United States. Given his position in society, addressing a government that has been unresponsive to its population due to political clashes (bipartisan politics in this case) is not an ideal setting for a major religious leader. Rather, it might be more fitting to spend his time in the United States in a manner that suits his position, such as detainees being held unfairly in Guantanamo Bay. Alternatively, the Pope has declined to meet with the Dalai Lama. The justification for this development is that it might hurt efforts to normalize relations with China. When the government of South Africa behaved similarly, Archbishop Desmond Tutu promptly condemned them. Given the position of the Pope as a beacon of morality and hope for the oppressed and marginalized, this action is both shocking and enlightening. It is enlightening as it reveals that, unfortunately, the importance of politics for an institution such as the Catholic Church may cause it to stray from its fundamental mission.

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GUANTANAMO BAY AND THE TORTURE REPORT

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
-Benjamin Franklin
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These days, the name Guantanamo Bay appears in the news from time to time. Typically, the focus is on the false promises granted by the Obama Administration or the human rights abuses that are being committed every minute of every day. The prison is located on the island of Cuba, which is ironic given the United States’ shaky relations with the nation. It was established as a byproduct of the War on Terror in 2002. Given the fear instilled in the nation at the time by the media and the government, the American public was willing to look the other way. Gradually, society became indifferent to the reality of unlawful imprisonment for individual’s deemed extraordinarily dangerous. Refer back to the quote stated at the beginning of the piece. Given the origin of the quote, it would be difficult to argue against the fact that the actions of the American public violate the original beliefs on which the nation was created. This part of American history is most similar to the time period where Japanese internment camps were erected for similar reasons.

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Flash forward around ten years and the CIA is made to release a torture report that details there actions against individuals held illegally, actions which most likely continue to take place today. While many of the horrific actions carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency are known, such as force-feeding and water-boarding, the report reveals that the actions were far more severe than the agency made them out to be. Furthermore, the report reveals that the CIA acted independently of government authorization and no part of the government should have that much power. When confronted on the issue, former vice-president Dick Cheney answered it was “Full of Crap“. Given that there are individuals who would argue with the findings of a non-biased government investigation, it becomes evident that many politicians are continuing to work to mislead the American public. Referring back to the Benjamin Franklin’s timeless warning, there is truly a problem that must be faced and it must begin with a change in the attitude of the United States citizens.