18 Apr ’14
Monthly Archives: April 2014
18 Apr ’14
Scientists have created robots on the nano-scale that they have implanted in cockroaches, effectively turning them into living computers. Yes, you read that correctly. These miniscule entities are made of DNA and are able to perform the same kind of logic operations as a silicon-based computer. Known as “origami robots”, they work by folding and unfolding strands of DNA, interacting with each other and the insect’s cells.
Daniel Levner, a bioengineer at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, says these DNA nanorobots, “could potentially carry out complex programs that could one day be used to diagnose or treat diseases with unprecedented sophistication.”
It has been often argued and debated as to where medicine will go in the future. We are now tinkering with abilities that seemed only possible in science fiction films not long ago. This very new biotechnology has had the ability to increase a single cockroach’s computing power to something that would be the equivalent of a Commodore 64 or Atari 800. Imagine where we could take this with humans, alongside with the exponential increase in computing power. This could be predominantly thrilling for cancer treatments, considering the ability of these nanobots to target individual cells with high levels of precision. Scientists believe human trials could even begin within five years’ time.
I don’t know if I want to be part of the first wave of humans getting DNA nanobots implanted into their bodies, but if it shows promise, sign me up.
16 Apr ’14
A brief Summary of the Kurdish Issue
The Kurdish population are non-Arab Sunni Muslim people who speak a language close to Persian. They largely live in the mountainous region that spans the border of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Armenia and Syria. This area is commonly known as Kurdistan. The states where Kurdistan occupy have all been known to repress, often violently, the Kurdish minority. The Kurds, whose population numbers are in the 20-25 million, are the largest ethnic group without their own nation.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire the Kurdish people where promised independence by the treaty of Sevres. The Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk rejected the treaty and managed to put down several uprisings. The Kurds were oppressed by the Turkish government, who tried to silence their cultural identity, outlawing their language and prohibiting traditional Kurdish costumes. Kurds in Iraq have faced similar repression. The Kurdish issue remained silent for some time until the rise of the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) who are a Kurdish nationalist group advocating for independence. The PKK waged a guerilla insurgency in southeastern Turkey and has been thought of as a terrorist group. Despite having the goal for statehood the Kurdish people are far from a unified minority with many different political factions who often fight themselves. After the capture of Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the PKK, a series of terrorist acts were committed in both Turley and abroad. The Turkish government has been undergoing a series of peace talks with the Kurdish population and has negotiated a ceasefire in March 2013.
There is no guarantee that the Kurdish conflict will come to peace, but for Turkey finding a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish issue will not only remove vulnerability but could lead to further economic growth in Turkey.
16 Apr ’14
Sinhala Day 8
My name is…
– Mage nama…
16 Apr ’14
The name Berber comes from the Latin word, “Barbarian,” but the Berbers are commonly known as Amazighs, meaning “the freeborn.” The Berbers are descended from the pre-Arab inhabitants of north Africa west of the Nile river, and have been in North Africa since at least 3000 B.C. Prior to the Arabization period and Arabic becoming the main language in Morocco, half of the country was Berbers, representing Christian, Jewish and polytheist Berbers in pre-Islamic times. Today, Morocco still has the majority of Berbers—40 % of the population. This 40% that speaks a Berber dialect, as read in the chapter “Split Identity” found in the novel Morocco, observe Berber customs and produce Berber art. This dialect can be divided into three main groups with different dialects, and two-thirds of Berbers live in rural and mountainous areas.
The nomadic Berbers can be found using tents of wool and goat hair, and the stationary housing of the Berbers is made out of clay, adobe, stone and/or brick. While many Berbers are nomadic peoples, most are farmers in those mountainous areas and valleys in northern Africa, including both Morocco and Algeria. Historically, Berber merchants were responsible for transporting goods by camel caravans. Today, many Berbers are migrant workers in France or Spain and send money to their families back home.
In recent years, small groups of Moroccan Berber activists have expressed interest in their blended history, especially their Jewish roots. The Berber culture movement, which supports the recognition of the Berber identity in Morocco, has had a recurring theme of Jews and Israel. There is now a Berber-Jewish friendship association that promotes anti-Semitism in Morocco, but there still remains a need for movement by the Berbers. In 2011, their goal to be recognized by the state in areas such as demography, history, and culture was accomplished, and in July 2011, Morocco’s ethnic diversity was proclaimed and Tamazight was recognized as an official language of the state.
However, Berbers still fight today for remedial economic, social, cultural and educational measures to begin addressing decades of neglect and injustice. As of February 2014, activists claim that the language has yet to be integrated into public life and there are still reports of officials refusing to register babies with Berber names. Despite the hardship presented by the government, a research in Rabat claims, “People have been liberated from the belief that their identity is banned. That is out biggest achievement.”
By shelbelise Contemporary Issues, Student Blogs No comments
16 Apr ’14
Sinhala Day 7
What is your name?
– Nama mokadhdha?
16 Apr ’14
My Journey in Privilege and Abortion Activism: A Love Story
I was 14 and a freshman in high school when my friend had her abortion. She is Latina, and I am white. Fresh out of a New York catholic school, which I attended from grades K-8, I was appalled. Anti-choice rhetoric is something I was taught beginning in the 1st grade, and in order to graduate from the 8th grade, I was forced to write an essay for the Archdiocese of New York about my anti-choice “opinion”. I wrote my opinion- that I was pro-choice in cases of rape and incest- and even then I was forced to change my essay to read that I was anti-choice in all cases. I was a horrible friend to my classmate in her time of need, and I will never truly forgive myself for it.
Privilege is something we encounter every day. What “privilege” refers to is the way that you benefit from a system (our society) based on your race, class, gender, faith, sexual orientation, and a bunch of other things. That’s what interests me most about privilege- it effects every one of us in a different way. Like culture, privilege allows us to see some things and blinds us to others. We tend to invalidate other people’s narratives when they have a different level of privilege in (and therefore different experiences with) the same system that we do. It’s important to remember that different people have equally valid experiences, even if those experiences disagree with our own, and that those people are deserving of our utmost respect and empathy. I was very unaware of my privilege as a white, middle class, Christian young woman in high school, and as a result I behaved in very ignorant and hurtful ways.
I am writing this, in part, because of the images that have been cropping up on campus this past semester, especially those displayed on the Drillfield and in front of D2 in Dietrick Plaza last Thursday and Friday. I am a feminist activist, and the Reproductive Rights Chair at Womanspace at VT. I’ve come a long way since I was 14. That journey began with “checking my privilege”, or recognizing the systematic inequalities present in our society, which manifest everywhere from the justice system to the supermarket checkout line. Never once have I been followed in a store while shopping alone, which is a common occurrence for people of color.1 If I am in court, being judged by a jury of my peers, I will, most likely, be in a courtroom made up of predominantly other white people, who will have similar experiences with the social system to my own. What allows me to pass judgment on people with different narratives and experiences? Nothing allows me to do that.
When a group of predominantly white men (and a few women) use images of genocide to further an argument that is rooted in systematic inequality, that group is blinded by their privilege. They do not realize that a person with a uterus or a person of color may be affected by these images in a very different way than they are. 1 in 3 United States women will have an abortion in her lifetime. The incidence of abortion is much higher in people of color than in white people2. 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in a miscarriage3. The nature of the images that have been displayed on campus can be detrimental to the many people who have had experience with these issues. A “triggered” reaction may occur- a reaction similar to that of post-traumatic stress disorder, a reaction that may include panic attacks, fainting, night terrors, and lashing out.
Privilege is integral to activism. You must be aware of yours to complete your action properly. Privilege and activism as concepts are married, much like privilege and anything else. You cannot separate race, class, gender, or orientation from discussions of feminism, of abortion, of the justice or educational system, or anything else.
What I am tasking you with, reader, is my ask that you think about how your opinion and means of expressing it may effect other people who may not share your experiences. Before you say that these images don’t bother you because you’re a man (which was a response that I received last week while providing crisis intervention and petitioning for the safety of people affected by the images that were displayed), think about how those images may bother somebody else, and think about what enables you to not be bothered by them. Remember that consent is sexy, and that it extends further than instances of intimacy. I did not consent to view those images, which were displayed in places that I couldn’t avoid on campus. I am privileged to have never needed an abortion, but I support the folks who have needed one. I stand in solidarity and support people who have less privilege than I do. I urge that you begin to think about your privilege and begin to stand with us, too.
1. McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”. (1988). <http://amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html>
2. “Induced Abortion in the United States”. Guttmacher Institute.
3. “Miscarriage Statistics”. http://www.hopexchange.com/Statistics.htm
16 Apr ’14
Sinhala Day 6
9 Apr ’14
Sinhala Day 5
How are you?
9 Apr ’14
A Look at Sarvodaya
This blog post is meant to share my internet explorations of the Sri Lankan NGO, Sarvodaya. Before combing Sarvodaya’s website, I knew little more about the organization than its name, and that I will be lucky enough to be spending time there this summer.
Sarvodaya was founded December 6th 1958 by A. T. Ariyaratne. As the largest NGO in Sri Lanka, Sarvodaya has 34 district centers, a presence in over 15,000 villages and an estimated 11 million citizens who individually benefited from one of their programs. Sarvodaya works to empower Sri Lankans after a history of class and caste barriers, violent ethnic conflict, and the devastating 2004 tsunami.
Sarvodaya is operated through the principal of Shramadana which means “sharing work, knowledge, talents, and time.” The aim of the Shramadana Movement is to use shared work, voluntary giving and sharing of resources to achieve the personal and social awakening of everyone. From the individual, to the village, and continuing up to the international level. Sarvodaya has a unique philosophy because it has a very holistic approach to development. The goal of Sarvodaya is not just to eradicate poverty, but to empower people through living the truths of compassion, loving kindness, joy in the happiness of others and equanimity. Projects organized by Sarvodaya empower people by exposing the mutual interdependence humans have on each other and their environment. Sri Lankan men and women of all age, caste, and ethnicity worked side by side, to build roads, preschools, houses and more together. They all shared a sense of ownership and the experience of working together and with the land. This kind of work became invaluable to Sri Lanka following the civil war in the 1990’s. Since the first Shramadana group in 1958, Sarvodaya has grown to address most problems faced by Sri Lankans in the twenty first century.
Current Sarvodaya projects include, the Sarvodaya Shanthi Sena Sandasaya ( Peace Brigade). This is a club for Sri Lankan youth with over 100,000 members and a goal of peace building and community development. Sarvodaya is also a microfinance practitioner, who offers small loans as well as financial consulting. Prisoners are helped with rehabilitation through Sarvodaya organized meditations. Sarvodaya helps communities in providing their own infrastructure such as water purification technologies, and latrines. Sarvodaya also provides preschools, vocational training centers, special education units, projects for children living on the street, child development centers, homes for senior citizens, and homes for disabled women. Unicef has partnered with Sarvodaya to conduct mine risk education programs. Modern technology is being responsibly introduced into Sri Lanka through Sarvodaya programs teaching education empowerment through Smartphones and how to access to information through a Smartphone. A. T. Ariyaratne descried Sarvodaya as living in the most modern era, guided by the most ancient value systems.
9 Apr ’14
Slums: ‘look how we’re treated in our own home’
“‘We keep Indian culture alive, we are its ambassadors across the world, but look how we are treated in our own home’” – Puran Bhat, a 62-year-old puppeteer.
Poverty is not the sole definition of slums; physical and social deterioration also attribute to slums that exist around the world. Also known as the “magicians’ ghetto,” Kathputli Colony found in India’s Rajasthan state is said to be the biggest single concentration of traditional street artists in the world. Its narrow lanes and teetering brick houses are home to dancers, sword-swallowers, singers, fire-eaters, sculptors and other practitioners of fast-disappearing arts. The conditions that the communities in this colony live in, however, are not pleasant.
Several mechanisms cause this deterioration and poverty. One is “red-lining” by financial and insurance institutions. Older areas like this county with less affluent residents are perceived as not profitable enough for home or business loans and insurance coverage, which prevents the repair and improvement of dwellings and buildings. Inability to obtain insurance coverage makes it difficult or unwise for businesses or home owners to remain in red-lined neighborhoods. Therefore, we have slums.
Local authorities have launched a campaign for the redevelopment of Kathputli thatwould use more community-friendly approach and set a nationwide example. Because, usually, slum clearances simply meant local authorities evicting inhabitants, demolishing their homes and banishing tens of thousands to distant, poorly built resettlement villages on the outskirts of Delhi. Raheja, a major property company, paid 61m rupees ($600,000) to the Delhi Development Agency, a municipal body, for the right to develop Kathputli. The plan was to house the community in a comfortable “transit camp” two miles from their former homes while the £40m development plan was completed. Each family would then receive one of 2,800 one-bedroom flats built on around 60% of the five-hectare (12.5-acre) site.
According to one individual, this is the reaction of the community living in the public to this plan:
” ‘We’ve been here for decades and no one has ever shown any interest in giving us anything. Now there is money around to be made they suddenly want us to have better lives. We don’t believe their promises.’ ”
Two of the major entities contributing to social decline, thus leading to the existence of slums are landlords and banks. Three states, Nevada, New York and Arizona Bank of America has a new program to supposedly keep distressed homeowners in their homes by having them turn over the Deed to the property (Property deeds are legal instruments that are used to assign ownership of real property, to transfer title to the land and its improvements such as a house). Now, we can have a bank be a landlord, great. Banks should not have a say in real estate. It can be argued that the fact that Bank of America wants to help the struggling homeowner us a nice deed, but they’re at the same time the ones who they’ve turned down with loan modification. What banks should actually do is offer distressed homeowners loan modification that actually works.
18 Apr ’14
A multinational corporation is essentially a business or company that operates in one or several countries other than the country it is managed from. Generally, any company that derives a quarter or more of its revenue from operating outside of its home country is considered a multinational corporation.
According to UN data, some 35,000 companies have direct investment in foreign countries, and the largest 100 of them control about 40% of world trade.
Multinational corporations have three stages of growth:
1. Export Stage- The company establishes initial inquiries and expands its export sales
2. Foreign Production Stage- the company chooses foreign production as a method of delivering goods to foreign markets
3. Multinational Stage- the company becomes a multinational corporation and finds the best foreign locations for planning, organizing, financing, and production.
There are benefits to the existence of multinational corporations, as they help provide jobs and
wealth to communities around the world. Investment by these companies provide foreign currency to developing economies. Most multinational corporations have large sizes and scales of operation, enabling them to benefit from economies of scale and lower the average costs and prices to consumers.
While multinational corporations bring jobs and a source of income to communities, there are many criticisms of these companies. They are often most interested in making a profit, even at the expense of the consumer. In order to make the best profit, they have monopoly power over the industry. Because they are so large and have a strong hold over the markets, multinational corporations often run smaller, family-run or local firms out of business because they simply cannot compete with large market prices. An example is the presence of a Starbucks in a small town. Smaller locally-owned coffee shops cannot compete with the prices and market dominance a Starbucks has, which results in the smaller shop going out of business and less diversity in the market overall.
Multinational corporations often ignore environmental laws and regulations, or choose foreign locations that do not have strict environmental policies. These large corporations contribute to pollution and mass use of non-renewable resources.
One of the biggest complaints against multinational corporations is the idea that they use “slave labor,” or workers who are paid an extremely small amount by Western standards, to run their shops and factories.
An article about globalization from The Economist, states that “multinationals pay sweatshop wages to their workers in developing countries. Regulation forcing them to pay higher wages is demanded…The NGOs, the reformed multinationals and enlightened rich-country governments propose tough rules on third-world factory wages, back up by trade barriers to keep out imports from countries that do not comply…the third-world workers displaced from locally owned factories explain to their children why the West’s new deal for the victims of capitalism requires them to starve.”
Multinational corporations bring jobs to developing communities, but they also cause the displacement of people from their homes and jobs to accommodate their facilities. They are seen as both a measure for progress and a step in the wrong direction at the same time, all depending on who is doing the measuring.
By shelbelise Contemporary Issues, Student Blogs 3 Comments