All posts filed under: Politics

Politics

Re-evaluating present human rights for the future

Since the mid-20th century many have grown used to the idea of having human rights and how these can be used when those people feel they are being threatened. In particular, despite having a heritage stemming back further, contemporary understanding of these rights was largely formed in 1948. That’s when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR) was created. This milestone document sought to facilitate a new world order following the devastation of World War II. It declared all humans to be born free and equal. It committed states to protect rights such as those to life, to be free from torture, to work, and to an adequate standard of living. These promises have since been cemented in international treaties, including the 1966 International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and in regional instruments like the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights(ECHR). More recently, however, states have started to think again. In the US, the first months of Donald Trump’s presidency have involved openly flouting international human rights commitments, most …

North Korea is not the biggest nuclear threat to the world

North Korea is not the biggest nuclear threat to the world

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and its dictator, Kim Jong-un, seem determined to demonstrate to the world, and particularly the United States, its nuclear weapons capabilities. With a possible hydrogen bomb test and two missile launches that have passed over Japan this month, tensions have been raised, with U.S. President Donald Trump implementing further sanctions and threatening to rain down “fire and fury” on the country. But does North Korea pose such a threat with its ongoing testing? Why is the U.S. not considered a threat in similar terms? For one thing, it’s the only country to have actually dropped a nuclear bomb on a civilian population, two in fact, on Japan to supposedly to avoid a land invasion, save lives and bring about a “swift end” to the Second World War. Yet this official narrative, pushed for decades, is being questioned by modern historians and no longer appears to hold up as it once did, especially as high-ranking U.S. officials themselves have questioned their use. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was a …

Rising food price has lead to conflict in Syria

Rising food price has lead to conflict in Syria

In 2015 the Welsh singer and activist Charlotte Church was widely ridiculed in the right-wing press and on social media for saying on BBC Question Time that climate change had played an important part in causing the conflict in Syria. From 2006 until 2011, [Syria] experienced one of the worst droughts in its history, which of course meant that there were water shortages and crops weren’t growing, so there was mass migration from rural areas of Syria into the urban centres, which put on more strain, and made resources scarce etc, which apparently contributed to the conflict there today. But what she said was correct – and there will be an increasing convergence of climate, food, economic and political crises in the coming years and decades. We need to better understand the interconnectivity of environmental, economic, geopolitical, societal and technological systems if we are to manage these crises and avoid their worst impacts. In particular, tipping points exist in both physical and socio-economic systems, including governmental or financial systems. These systems interact in complex ways. …

Perils of North Koreans fleeing to China

Perils of North Koreans fleeing to China

China shares a border with North Korea, it has become the first destination for desperate North Koreans who risk their lives to escape. An unofficial figure estimates that there are between 50,000 and 200,000 North Koreans living in China. The Chinese government denies most of them refugee status, instead treating them as economic migrants who have illegally crossed the border to seek work. Most have no formal identification or legal status. In addition, Beijing works together with Pyongyang to capture defectors and send them back, making their lives as escapees completely untenable. In the interviews many North Koreans now settled in the UK. Many of them said they had been caught by the Chinese police and repatriated to the north a number of times, but managed to escape again and again. The combination of desperation, the denial of legal status and the terror of the Chinese police operation exposes these people to gross exploitation – especially women. Among those who successfully leave North Korea, women make up the majority. In their search for freedom, many …

UK rejoin the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) after Brexit?

With the Brexit clock ticking ever louder, the need to plan the UK’s future relationships with not only the EU but other trading partners too becomes more urgent. One option is to seek membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the grouping comprising Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. This would provide some continuity in terms of preferential access to a not insignificant market for UK goods. EFTA accounts for 8.5% of UK exports. Membership should also, through EFTA’s free trade agreements with 38 countries, provide preferential access to a range of markets without the UK having to negotiate new bilateral agreements. Plus, securing EFTA membership would facilitate participation in the European Economic Area(EEA) if the UK wanted to pursue this post-Brexit. EFTA membership does not entail EEA membership, but only EU and EFTA member states can currently be contracting parties to the EEA Agreement. This raises the question of what is the process for joining EFTA, an organisation of which the UK was in fact a founding member in 1960 and which it only …

Is EU regulation really so bad for the UK?

Government estimates suggest that around half of all UK legislation with an impact on business, charities, and the voluntary sector originates from the EU. This is often used as an argument in favour of Brexit. But the overall costs and benefits of EU regulation are rarely scrutinised in depth. The UK government’s position since the 1980s has been that regulation in general acts as a drag on enterprise, innovation and investment, with ruinous implications for growth and employment. This thinking has long underpinned antagonism towards the EU and is lent support by numerous studies that have provided eye-watering estimates of the costs of EU regulation to UK business. Take claims made by the Leave campaign in the lead up to the referendum. Drawing on estimates produced by the think tank Open Europe, it was claimed that EU regulations cost the British economy £33.3 billion a year. The benefits of key regulations were also described as “vastly over-stated”, with more than half providing “no clear benefits”. Estimates of the costs and benefits of EU regulation, like …

Is feminism killing romance?

Heterosexual romantic relationships have historically been all about men courting and “keeping” women. And it’s a powerful tradition. Whether it’s asking someone out, picking up the bill, or being the main breadwinner in the family, many of the ideas we have about romance are still based on men being initiators and directors and women being receivers and caretakers. Yet society is changing. Women are increasingly entering the “male domains” of high-powered jobs and sexual freedom. So how does all this affect romance? Given that popular (mis)conceptions of feminism tend to malign feminists as man-haters or lesbians, it’s easy to see why many people view gender equality as incompatible with romance and a hindrance to romantic relationships. But is this really the case? Let’s take a look at the evidence. Traditionally, women’s main route to status and influence involved attracting high-status romantic partners. But while the movement for gender equality has changed things, cultural scripts about romance have curtailed women’s social roles and still continue to do so. For example, when adolescent girls describe their first …

Statues of medical racist who experimented on slaves should also be taken down

Confederate generals are not the only statues causing public outrage in the US. On Saturday, protesters gathered in New York City’s Central Park to call for the removal of a monument to James Marion Sims – the “father of gynaecology” – a doctor who bought, sold and experimented on slaves. There are two other Sims statues on state-owned property. One is in Columbia, South Carolina, and the other in Montgomery, Alabama. In an interview with MSNBC, Steve Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, recently agreed that the local Sims statue should come down “at some point”. Now the New York Academy of Medicine has reissued a statementsupporting the removal of Sims’ effigy from Central Park. Over the past five decades, a small army of academics – including social historians, feminists, African American scholars and bioethicists – have reached a consensus that Sims’ medical research on enslaved patients was dangerous, exploitative and deeply unethical – even by the standards of his times. And doctors at the Medical University of South Carolina, in Sims’ home state, have publicly …

Can men be feminists?

Can men be feminists?  This is a question I come up against frequently. And it seems I’m not alone: a recent Ipsos poll across 15 “developed” countries found almost as many men as women support feminism, while a quick Googlethrows up around 50,000 hits for this flashpoint question. The question plays a big role in debates about men’s relationship with feminism and gender equality at large. This should come as no surprise; recent years have seen a welcome revitalisation of feminist activism and writing, much of it in direct response to persistent (and in some cases resurgent) forms of sexism. What’s more, a substantial number of men are getting directly involved in this activism; even celebrities such as Pharrell Williams, Professor Green and John Legend have openly tried to grapple with the conundrum of men and feminism. It seems that many are thinking through the different ways men can productively engage with the struggle for greater gender equality. Unfortunately, however, the question of whether men “can be feminists” is not always a helpful place to …

Why Mark Wahlberg earns US$42m more than any woman in Hollywood

Why should we care that, in Hollywood, female actors earn less than male ones? The latest tally of star pay, compiled by Forbes magazine, has men far outstripping women’s earnings. The highest paid woman – Emma Stone – makes her appearance at number 15, earning US$42m (£33m) less than the highest paid man, Mark Wahlberg. It’s easy to be dazzled or disgusted by the huge numbers on the Forbes list and click onto another story about Hollywood stars, without realising the implications of the pay disparity on display. “Men earn more at work than women” has been the most familiar story across industrialised economies for generations. But the Forbes list is significant because one of the principal reasons for the worldwide gender pay gap is occupational segregation: women and men are still largely concentrated in different jobs or at different levels of the same job. For example, official UK statistics showthat women are concentrated in a smaller, lower-paid range of jobs than men, particularly the five “Cs” – caring, catering, cashiering, cleaning and clerical work. …