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Upcoming Teach In: Ebola and Global Health

There will be a Teach-In on Ebola and Global Health, Thursday, September 18th, from 4 – 5:30 pm in Lincoln Hall room 1092.  

Sponsored by the Center for African Studies, the Center for Global Studies, the UIUC Global Health Initiative, and the University YMCA, the teach-in will include expert panelists and will focus on Ebola and its impact on global health.

Panelists will include:

  • Dr. Gay Miller – Professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathology
  • Dr. Barry Pittenrigh – Professor in the Department of Entomology and Director of Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO)
  • Christian Martyn Kamara – National General Secretary and Chief Executive Office of the YMCA in Sierra Leone
  • Mabinty Tarawallie, MSW – Sierra Leone National and recent graduate from the University of Illinois School of Social Work

In preparation for this event, this blog post will break down some important information about the Ebola virus.

The worst outbreak of the Ebola virus in history is taking place in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria, with a current total of 3,967 suspected and current cases.  The CDC reports the current number of deaths (as of September 5th, 2014) at 2,105.  Ebola is described by Doctors Without Borders as “one of the world’s most deadly diseases,”  and the mortality rate for the current outbreak of 53% makes it all the more terrifying for the communities who find themselves at risk of infection.

The History

The first discovery of the Ebola virus occurred with an outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in Zaire (which is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Sudan in 1976.  These first outbreaks had approximately 300 cases in each country, with 88% of cases leading to death.  The virus is named after the Ebola River, which is close to the first site of infection in Zaire.  There are five different strains of the Ebola virus. These include Bundibugyo, Ivory Coast, Reston, Sudan and Zaire, and are named after their places of origin. All but the Reston Ebola virus are dangerous to humans.  According to the CDC, there have been 31 outbreaks of Ebola, including all five strains, since the original 1976 outbreak.  The average number of reported human cases for each of these outbreaks is 56.

The Virus

Ebola is spread through the direct contact of bodily fluids.  It can be carried and transmitted by animals and humans.  Transmission of the virus is only possible after the infected person begins to show symptoms. It is believed that fruit bats may be a natural host for the virus, and other animals such as primates can also carry the virus and could be the cause of human contraction.

Since the beginning symptoms of Ebola are the same as many other diseases, it is difficult to initially diagnose the disease without a laboratory test.

While several vaccines are being tested for Ebola virus, there are currently no clinically available medications for the disease.  Current treatment for the disease includes administering fluids through IV and treating the symptoms, such as balancing electrolytes and maintaining blood pressure.

The Fear Factor

The fear surrounding the Ebola outbreak is having negative impacts on the health systems in affected countries, making a very bad situation even worse.  One of these impacts is that people are avoiding health care centers because of the concern of contracting Ebola.  This means that individuals suffering from non-Ebola-related health problems are going untreated because they are afraid of contracting the Ebola virus.  This is a huge problem since Ebola is far from the biggest health concern affecting people in West Africa.  This graph from Humanosphere shows that the deaths from neglected tropical diseases and Malaria far outstretch the deaths from Ebola in 2014. But the panic surrounding the Ebola outbreak is overshadowing the urgent health concerns posed by other diseases, causing individuals who need medical care to avoid treatment.

Due to the high levels of publicity that Ebola has garnered in the international media, the irrational alarm surrounding the Ebola outbreak has become a worldwide issue.  According to a recent poll by the Harvard School of Public Health, 39 percent of Americans are concerned that there could be a large Ebola outbreak in the United States.  The mode of transmission for Ebola (only through the direct contact of bodily fluids) makes it extremely unlikely to pose a threat to countries as far away from the affected areas as the United States. In fact, Jay M. Bernhardt, Professor & Founding Director of the Center for Health Communication  at the University of Texas at Austin has stated that the odds of someone living in the U.S. contracting Ebola are “about the same as being struck and killed by a meteor: essentially zero.”

Some experts believe that the international anxiety that has arisen in response to the Ebola outbreak is doing more harm than good for those in the affected regions.  Despite the fact that the World Health Organization has recommended that flights to affected regions remain operational, many international airlines have cancelled flights to these areas.  Not only does the quarantine of borders and cancellation of flights keep health workers and aid from those in need, it has the additional consequence of creating food shortages in the affected countries.

The Current Situation

Although the concern of the virus spreading to the world population may be inflated, the Ebola outbreak is an urgent medical concern for the world community to address. Health workers who are treating the virus are at the most serious risk of infection.  In fact, more than 120 medical workers have contracted the disease, according to WHO. The reason that health workers are at such risk of infection is the lack of protective equipment and adequate facilities to support infection control.  The countries being most heavily affected by the virus (Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone) do not have adequate facilities or staff to deal with existing cases and prevent the spread of the disease.

This is why UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has issued an “international rescue call,” requesting a surge in worldwide assistance to deal with the Ebola outbreak.  Part of the international response, in addition to supplies and aid, must include an effort to disseminate information about the disease.  But most importantly, the international response must be grounded in scientific evidence and must strive to combat the fear and stigma that is so widespread surrounding the Ebola outbreak.

Interested in learning more about the Ebola outbreak? Check out the following sources:

Web Resources

CDC – 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa

WHO – Ebola Virus Disease

Doctors without Borders – Ebola Emergency

CDC – Outbreaks Chronology: Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever

Microbe Wiki – Ebola Virus

Infographic from the CDC

Africa Focus – Updates on Ebola

News Articles

WHO: Ebola ‘an international emergency’ – BBC News

Ebola virus: Nine things to know about the killer disease – CNN.com

Ebola Outbreak Precautions – In Pictures

How the Ebola Outbreak Compares to Other Killers – Humanosphere

Ban issues ‘international rescue call’ to halt Ebola epidemic – UN News Centre

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals & Databases)

Bausch, D. G., & Schwarz, L. (2014, July). Outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in Guinea: Where Ecology Meets Economy. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. pp. 1-5.

Check Hayden, E. (2014). World struggles to stop Ebola. Nature512(7515), 355-356.

Ying, CHENG, Yu, LI and Hong Jie, YU. (2014) Ebola Virus Disease: General Characteristics, Thoughts, and Perspectives. Biomedical and Environmental Sciences. 27(8): 651-3.

Books at UIUC Libraries

Hewlett, Barry S.,Hewlett, Bonnie L. (2008). Ebola, culture, and politics :the anthropology of an emerging disease. Belmont, CA : Thomson Higher Education.

Preston, Richard. (2008). Panic in level 4: cannibals, killer viruses, and other journeys to the edge of scienceNew York : Random House.

Webber, R. (2004). Communicable Disease Epidemiology and Control: A Global Perspective. Wallingford : CABI.

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Net Neutrality: Past Rulings and Future Debate

This week, the FCC ruled 3-2 to release a new proposal on net neutrality, which will be opened for comment from the public.  In light of the lively debate that is already starting on this issue, it’s important to understand how the concept of net neutrality has been established in the United States over the past decade.

History of rulings on Net Neutrality

In 2005, the FCC agreed upon the following four principles of “open internet.”

  • Consumers have the right to access the lawful Internet content of their choice.
  • Consumers have the right to use the services and applications of their choice.
  • Consumers have the right to use their choice of devices to access the Internet, as long as said devices do not harm the network.
  • Consumers are entitled to competition among service, application, network, and content providers

The 2005 principles of “open internet” represent the basic tenets of net neutrality.

In 2010, the FCC released the Open Internet Order, which laid out rules for maintaining net neutrality.  The ruling established three important rules for Internet service providers:

  • Transparency – Network providers must make publicly available their network management practices, performance characteristics, and terms and conditions of their contracts.
  • No Blocking – Network providers may not block any lawful content from consumers.  This is important because it keeps network providers from blocking sites or applications from their users that compete with their services.
  • No Unreasonable Discrimination – Network providers cannot discriminate in transmitting network traffic, as long as it is lawful.

However, in Verizon v. FCC in January, 2014, two out of these three rules were rescinded.  Stating that Internet service providers are not common carriers, and therefore are outside of the FCC’s realm of authority, the ruling claims that the FCC cannot impose the rules of net neutrality on Internet providers.  This ruling is seen by proponents of net neutrality as detrimental to the principles of open internet.  While the ruling did not comment on the validity of the rules themselves, it made the 2010 Open Internet Order unenforceable by the FCC.

What’s happening now?

There has been a large public outcry against the Verizon v. FCC ruling, since it is seen by many consumers as a huge step backwards for net neutrality.  The January ruling has the potential to allow Internet service providers to essentially govern the Internet as suits their commercial interests.

The latest proposal by the FCC for creating new rules for net neutrality has also raised concerns that corporate interests are being placed ahead of the principles of open internet.  The proposed rules allow for “commercially reasonable” behavior by Internet service providers to regulate Internet content.  This provision could allow content providers to pay for “fast lanes” of service for certain content, which opponents say would discriminate against slower content.  The possibility that the newly proposed rules could allow for discrimination of Internet content by providers led to a rally of protesters outside of FCC offices as the ruling took place.  But those on the other side of the debate, namely the Internet service providers themselves, claim that the new proposed rules introduce too much regulation, and will inhibit innovation in the Internet industry.  The ruling has strong political implications in the Congress as lawmakers consider future action.

The encouraging part of the proposal for both sides of the debate is its designation of a four-month period to accept public comments on the issue.  Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC, says that this call for comments is intended to open a conversation between lawmakers and the public to ensure that the new ruling upholds the tenets of net neutrality.  The next four months will surely see some lively arguments on the subject of net neutrality, and the forthcoming decisions by the FCC will be important to the future of Internet regulation in the United States.

Check out the resources below to learn more about net neutrality!

**Want to file a comment to the FCC on net neutrality? Here’s the FCC’s information on how to comment.**

News and Opinions

F.C.C. Backs Opening Net Neutrality Rules for Debate – The New York Times

Amid protests, U.S. FCC proposes new ‘net neutrality’ rules – Reuters

The real battle for net neutrality just began – The Verge

Demand Progress – Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality an Oxymoron as FCC Decides Winners and Losers – Bloomberg

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC E-Journals)

Bauer, J. M., & Obar, J. A. (2014). Reconciling Political and Economic Goals in the Net Neutrality Debate. Information Society30(1), 1-19.

Boliek, B. L. (2011). FCC Regulations Versus Antitrust: How Net Neutrality is Defining the Boundaries. Boston College Law Review52(5), 1627-1686.

Kramer, Jan, Wiewiorra, Lukas, Weinhardt, Christof. (2013). Net Neutrality: A progress report. Telecommunications Policy, 37, 794-813.

Pogue, D. (2014). The Great Net Debate. Scientific American310(4), 36.

Books at the UIUC Libraries

Guadamuz, Andrés. (2011). Networks, complexity and internet regulation: scale-free law. Cheltenham, UK : Edward Elgar.

Nunziato, Dawn C. (2009). Virtual freedom :net neutrality and free speech in the Internet ageStanford, Calif. : Stanford Law Books.

Stiegler, Zachary. (Eds.) (2013). Regulating the Web :network neutrality and the fate of the open Internet. Lanham: Lexington Books.

Zelnick, Robert, Zelnick, Eva. (2013). The illusion of net neutrality: political alarmism, regulatory creep, and the real threat to Internet freedomStanford, CA : Hoover Institution Press.

 

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World Press Freedom Day 2014

World Press Freedom Index 2014 map: “freedom of the press worldwide.” (By Reporters Without Borders)

The Importance of Free Press

Saturday, May 3rd marks World Press Freedom Day 2014. This event, organized by UNESCO, presents a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the importance of free press and intellectual freedom, and the great impact that these issues have on creating a world with just and corruption-free governance.  The role of journalism is to bring issues of government, culture, science, environment, and society into the public light – to inform the people and hopefully to spark dialogues that include the diverse public into the process of shaping public policy.  A UNESCO press release explains that a free news media not only helps in policy shaping but also leads to the reduction of poverty through intellectual empowerment and increased mobility of groups that can be disproportionately affected by poverty, such as women and youth.

Global Obstacles to Free Press

In order to provide this service, journalists and the news media need to be free to report the news truthfully. In many places around the world, journalists do not have this freedom.  UNESCO reports that journalists face obstacles including censorship, arrest, and even threats of physical harm and death.  It is the goal of organizations such as Reporters without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, and many more, to protect the rights of journalists and raise awareness about the threats to press freedom that exist in the world.

Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2014 ranks countries based on pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency,  and infrastructure.  The United States has fallen thirteen places on the list in the past year, currently residing in 46th place.  This change is largely due to the government’s efforts to increase security and track down whistleblowers and leaks. These actions by the government, according to Reporters Without Borders, inhibit journalists from revealing information to the public that may be in the interest of the public good.  Other countries have fallen on the list because of armed conflict. These countries include Lebanon and Iraq (due to the conflict in neighboring Syria), and Mali, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (due to the activities of guerrilla and terrorist groups in the region). In some cases, organized crime is a danger to journalists and has caused a decline in press freedom in certain countries, most notably Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, and Paraguay.

Improving Press Freedom for the Future

Increasing press freedom is a major goal of the UN’s Post-2015 Development Goals.  Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”  The 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Protocols Additional 1 and 2 to the Geneva Conventions also include provisions for press freedom.  These international agreements create a powerful impetus for countries around the world to keep striving for greater press freedom and to keep assessing the ways that journalists and reporters are treated.

Additional Organizations

ARTICLE 19 is an international human rights organisation which defends and promotes freedom of expression and freedom of information all over the world.

The Ethical Journalism Initiative website is a new campaign to rekindle old values in media worldwide, launched by the International Federation of Journalists.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) is a press advocacy group representing media organizations in North America, South America and the Caribbean.

The International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) is a global network of around 90 non-governmental organisations that promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression.

The International News Safety Institute (INSI) is a coalition of news organisations, journalist support groups and individuals exclusively dedicated to the safety of news media staff working in dangerous environments.

International Press Institute is the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, dedicated to freedom of the press and improving the standards and practices of journalism.

News and Websites

Tadias – World Free Press Day 2014

UNESCO – Free Media Contribute to Good Governance, Empowerment and Eradicating Poverty

UNESCO Freedom of Expression Toolkit – A Guide for Students

Press freedom in the digital age: new threats, new challenges – The Council of Europe’s Commissioner: Human Rights Comment

Webcast of the UN Briefing for World Press Freedom Day 2014 – May 1, 2014

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC E-journals)

Policinski, G. (2012). A Free Press? It’s Not That Simple. Insights On Law & Society12(3), 4-7.

THEMUDO, N. S. (2013). Reassessing the Impact of Civil Society: Nonprofit Sector, Press Freedom, and Corruption. Governance26(1), 63-89. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0491.2012.01602.x

Books at the UIUC Library

Czepek, Andrea.; Hellwig, Melanie; Nowak, Eva. (Eds.) (2009). Press freedom and pluralism in Europe :concepts and conditionsBristol, UK: Intellect.

Knightley, Phillip. (2004) The first casualty :the war correspondent as hero and myth-maker from the Crimea to Iraq Baltimore, Md. : Johns Hopkins University Press,

Price, Monroe E.,; Abbott, Susan; Morgan, Libby. (Eds.) (2011). Measures of press freedom and media contributions to development: evaluating the evaluatorsNew York : Peter Lang.

Siegel, Paul. (2014). Communication law in America. Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield.

Smith, Dean C.. (2013).  A theory of shield laws :journalists, their sources, and popular constitutionalismEl Paso : LFB Scholarly Publishing LLC.

Wasserman, Herman. (Eds.) (2013). Press freedom in Africa :comparative perspectivesLondon : Routledge.

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Global Challenges for Gender Equality

UN Commission on the Status of Women

This week, the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) coincides with International Women’s Day (which took place on March 8th), as well as Women’s History Month in the U.S.  These events present a great opportunity to discuss and examine the challenges faced by women and girls in today’s world.  Let’s focus on three key target areas for gender equality (UN Women, 2013).

Freedom from violence against women and girls

The World Health Organization reported in 2013 that 35% of women worldwide have experienced some type of violence  in their lifetime. This violence can have serious and long-lasting effects on women’s mental, reproductive, and sexual health (WHO, 2013). This issue is addressed in the UN Millennium Development Goals, and will undoubtedly be addressed by the post-2015 development goals.  UN Women works to encourage legal reform, create safe spaces for women, provide health services for victims of violence, increase awareness of the problem, and prevent violence by addressing the root causes. This cause has also been taken up by many private organizations, such as End Violence Against Women International and Springtide Resources. These organizations focus on education initiatives, prevention programs, as well as conducting research to guide efforts at reform.

Gender Equality in the Distribution of Capabilities

This area involves women’s access to education, healthcare, and opportunities such as land or work with equal pay.  The Millennium Development Goals Report of 2013 indicates that progress is being made in all of these areas, but this progress varies by region and demographic.  For instance, the report reveals that women tend to hold less secure jobs than men in developing regions.  The statistics for education reveal that in Northern Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia, the gender disparity in education still remains high (UN, 2013).  The World Economic Forum’s World Gender Gap Report also shows that the “Gender Gap” varies greatly depending on region and tends to be higher in developing areas(World Economic Forum, 2013).

Gender equality in decision-making power

This issue is about women holding positions of influence in public forums and government, but also in their own homes and families.  The number of women that hold parliamentary seats has increased in almost every world region since 2000, mostly due to the creation of legislative or voluntary quotas that require a certain number of female members. However, women’s decision-making power at home remains significantly lower than men’s in many regions of the world (UN, 2013).  These types of decisions range from money-related decisions, to women’s ability to visit friends and family, to decisions about women’s own health.  Family dynamics are greatly influenced by societal and institutional norms, and the hope of many organizations is that by increasing women’s access to education and work opportunities, these norms will begin to change in a direction that is less discriminatory towards women.

Why is gender equality so important?

In a recent report, the UK-based Department for International Development explains that economic stability and growth for developing countries is greatly boosted by improved gender equality.  It makes sense – if women and girls can gain access to improved education, they will eventually get better jobs and be able to better contribute to the economy. The same study shows that including women in political decision-making leads to more effective governance, since women’s presence in government brings greater diversity and different experience to the process (DFID, 2013). This makes the problem all the more pressing and important.  Gender equality is not only a significant concern from a human rights standpoint, but it will allow for the economic and political growth that developing nations need to make them competitive in world markets.

But on a more basic level, gender equality is about advancing human rights for all citizens of the world.

Check out the resources below to learn more about this subject:

Organizations

He for She

UN Women

Women Thrive Wordwide

International Labour Organization Bureau for Gender Equality (GENDER)

End Violence Against Women International

Springtide Resources

Women for Women International

 

Informative Websites and Web Articles

Timeline of International Agreements and Standards to End Violence against Women

Five Human Rights Issues for U.S. NonProfits on International Women’s Day – Non-Profit Quarterly

International Women’s Day: Mainstream Messaging For The Radical Cause Of Full Economic Empowerment – Forbes

 

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC E-Journals)

Corinne L. Mason. “Global Violence Against Women as a National Security “Emergency”.” Feminist Formations 25.2 (2013): 55-80. Project MUSE. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.

Hendra, J., FitzGerald, I., & Seymour, D. (2013). TOWARDS A NEW TRANSFORMATIVE DEVELOPMENT AGENDA: THE ROLE OF MEN AND BOYS IN ACHIEVING GENDER EQUALITY. Journal Of International Affairs67(1), 105-122.

Munin, N. (2013). NGOs, Multinational Enterprises and Gender Equality in Labor Markets: A Political Economy of Conflicting Interests?. Journal Of Multidisciplinary Research (1947-2900)5(1), 5-26.

Chant, SylviaSweetman, Caroline.  (2012). Fixing women or fixing the world? ‘Smarteconomics’, efficiency approaches, and gender equality in development. Gender & Development. 20(3), 517-52.

 

Latest Books at the UIUC Libraries

Joffe, Lisa Fishbayn.Neil, Sylvia. (Eds.) (2013). Gender, religion, & family law: theorizing conflicts between women’s rights and cultural traditionsWaltham, Mass. : Brandeis University Press.

Karamessini, Maria.Rubery, Jill. (Eds.) (2014). Women and austerity: the economic crisis and the future for gender equalityMilton Park, Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

Ringrose, Jessica. (2013). Postfeminist education?: girls and the sexual politics of schoolingLondon : Routledge.

Rose, Susan D.. (2014). Challenging global gender violence: the Global Clothesline ProjectNew York : Palgrave Pivot.

Runyan, Anne Sisson,Peterson, V. Spike. (2014). Global gender issues in the new millenniumBoulder, CO : Westview Press.

Yarwood, Lisa. (Eds.) (2013). Women and transitional justice: the experience of women as participantsAbingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

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The World Watches as Protests Escalate

In the past weeks, mass protests have been swelling in Venezuela, Ukraine, and Thailand, sparking discussions among world political leaders over the rights of protestors and the nature of political dissent.  The world is watching as three different countries in three very different parts of the world struggle with opposition between government and civilian groups, and as the protests escalate from peaceful demonstrations to bloody clashes that verge on all-out battle.  Here is the run-down on what’s happening in each of these three countries.

Venezuela

In Venezuela, at least 4 people were killed and many more injured as government forces pushed back against protestors in the capital city of Caracas on February 12th.  Anti-government protestors are part of a movement led by Leopoldo López, leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, who has long been a proponent of grass roots political reform in the country.  According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2013-2014, Venezuela is the number three economy most damaged by violence.  The country currently has the highest inflation rate in the world, at 56.2%.  Protestors are calling for the ousting of President Nicolas Madura, who was elected after the death of Hugo Chavez in April, 2013.  Rallies have been held both in opposition to and in support of the Madura government.  The government has arrested many protesters and is holding them in custody, along with López, who turned himself in to the police on February 18th.

Ukraine

In the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, protesters took to the streets in November in response to President Viktor Yanukovych backing out of a trade deal with Europe in favor of closer ties with Russia.  Protests have spread to other cities in Ukraine, but Kiev remains the center of conflict.  Many demonstrators have been camping out in Independence Square in Kiev for months, determined to see the conflict through.  On February 18th, after parliament refused to pass a law limiting the president’s powers, protests surged and security forces took steps to quell them, resulting in violent clashes that left at least 25 dead and hundreds wounded.  Violence came from both sides of the struggle, with deaths and injuries on the side of the protesters as well as the security forces.  Protesters set fire to buildings, including the headquarters of the ruling Party of Regions.  The opposition headquarters, the Trade Union House, was also set afire and Independence Square resembled a battle scene on the morning of February 19th.

Although Yanukovych and opposition leaders sat down to a truce on February 19th, fresh fighting broke out in Independence Square on February 20th between protesters and police.  News outlets are reporting up to 100 deaths in these clashes.  The renewed uprising led to an extra-legal parliamentary takeover, after which Yanukovych fled the city.  Parliament set up an interim government and announced presidential elections in May.  Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko announced that he would be on the ballot for the May elections.  Ukraine’s new government announced on February 24th that Yanukovych would be tried for mass murder charges in connection with the deaths of protesters during clashes with police, but he remains on the run.  Meanwhile, the newly formed government of Ukraine is scrambling to avoid economic default, entreating the United States and European Union to pull together as much as $35 billion to get the country back on its feet.  The next weeks will be critical for the fresh leadership in Ukraine to avoid economic collapse and unite the differing opinions of a still-uncertain new government.

Thailand

In Bangkok, Thailand, protesters have been camped out since November calling for the removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the implementation of an unelected “people’s council” to push through reforms.  On February 18th, after Yingluck expanded the powers of police to disband protesters, attempts to clear protesters from government buildings in Bangkok led to violent clashes between police and protesters.  Five people were killed during this standoff, as both police and protesters fired guns.  Witnesses claim that protesters threw a grenade at police, injuring several. Thai authorities estimate that 15,000 people are involved in the protests, and nearly 200 protesters have been arrested.

 

Stay informed on these important events! The following sources will get you up to speed:

General Reference Resources

CIA World Factbook - provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities.

EIU Country Intelligence: Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) Country Intelligence provides users with reports and analysis about political, business and economic issues by country, category and subject.

 

News Sources

Venezuela

In Venezuela, Protest Ranks Grow Broader – New York Times

Most neighbors silent as Venezuela reels – CNN

Mercosur condemns violence in Venezuela and calls for dialogue. – MercoPress

17-year-old dies during Venezuelan protests. – CNN

Venezuela’s Maduro Holds Mass Rally to Reject Violence as Protests Continue. - Venezuelanalysis.com

Ukraine

The Guardian – Ukraine

Ukraine crisis: Vitali Klitschko says he will run for presidency – The Independent

Ukraine wants runaway president to face international justice – Reuters

EU, U.S. Scramble to Pull Together Aid for Ukraine – The Wall Street Journal

Thailand

10 questions: What’s behind the protests in Thailand? - CNN

Thailand police and protesters clash fatally in Bangkok – BBC News

Thai protests end in violence and deaths – Al Jazeera

 

Scholarly Articles (Full text available through UIUC E-Journals)

Venezuela

Denis, R. (2012). The Birth of an “Other Politics” in Venezuela. South Atlantic Quarterly, 111(1), 81-93.

Jefferson, A. (2013). Venezuela’s Bolivarian Democracy: Participation, Politics, and Culture under Chávez. Latin Americanist57(3), 108-110.

Kingsbury, Donald. (2013). Between Multitude and Pueblo: Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution and the Government of Un-governability. New Political Science, 35(4), 567-585.

Nadeau, Richard; Bélanger, Éric; Didier, Thomas. (2013). The Chávez vote and the national economy in Venezuela. Electoral Studies, 32(3), pp. 482-488.

Ukraine

Antoaneta Dimitrova & Rilka Dragneva (2013) Shaping Convergence with the EU in Foreign Policy and State Aid in Post-Orange Ukraine: Weak External Incentives, Powerful VetoPlayers, Europe-Asia Studies, 65:4, 658-681.

Dimitrova A, Dragneva R. Shaping Convergence with the EU in Foreign Policy and State Aid in Post-Orange Ukraine: Weak External Incentives, Powerful Veto Players. Europe-Asia Studies [serial online]. June 2013;65(4):658-681.

Thailand

Paul Chambers (2013). Military “Shadows” in Thailand Since the 2006 Coup. Asian Affairs: An American Review, 40:2, 67-82.

Sinpeng, A., & Martinez Kuhonta, E. (2012). From the Street to the Ballot Box: The July 2011 Elections and the Rise of Social Movements in Thailand. Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal Of International & Strategic Affairs, 34(3), 389-415.

Taylor, J. (2012). Remembrance and Tragedy: Understanding Thailand’s “Red Shirt” Social Movement. SOJOURN: Journal Of Social Issues In Southeast Asia, 27(1), 120-152.

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World Leaders Talk Disarmament at UN Conference

Photo: U.S. Mission by Eric Bridiers

On January 21st, the UN Conference on Disarmament opened in Geneva.  With members from 65 countries including the world’s leading military powers, the conference is designed to create multilateral agreements on arms control and disarmament.  The conference, which began in 1979, has resulted in some of the most important treaties on non-proliferation, such as the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon opened the conference with a speech urging member states to overcome differences and move past the stalemate that the conference has experienced in recent years.  Speaking of the Syrian chemical weapons incident of 2013, and the unified voice that came from United Nations member states against such weapons, he encouraged the conference to use structured discussions and draw out new non-proliferation treaty frameworks.

While non-proliferation has become a strong point of rhetoric for many nations, the steps taken to reduce nuclear arms have fallen short of many expectations in recent years.  In a 2009 speech, President Obama vowed that the United States would “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” (as cited in Karp, 2012).  Yet, in early January, the U.S. Defense Secretary announced a plan to upgrade the United States nuclear forces that will total $1 trillion in cost over the next 30 years. These discrepancies between ideology and practice are not limited to the United States.  Russia, China, and India are all taking huge steps to expand their nuclear defense programs as well (Wittner, 2014). The Conference on Disarmament could be an important forum for bringing these discrepancies to light and developing structured and open discussions about their meanings.  Hopefully, member states will heed the words of Secretary General Ki-Moon and overcome their differences to engage in these discussions.

You can learn more about non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament with the sources below!

News Sources

UN chief encourages Conference on Disarmament to live up to world’s expectations – UN News Centre

Interview with Angela Kane, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

The Endless Arms Race: Despite Great Power Promises, New Nuclear Weapons Are On the Way – Huffington Post, Lawrence Wittner

 

Scholarly Articles

Doyle, J., & Streeper, C. (2012). Steps toward increased nuclear transparency. Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists, 68(2), 55-62.

Karp, R. (2012). Nuclear Disarmament: Should America Lead? Political Science Quarterly, 127(1), 47-71.

Lawrence Freedman (2013) Disarmament and Other Nuclear Norms, TheWashington Quarterly, 36:2, 93-108.

Tannenwald, N. (2013). Justice and fairness in the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Ethics & International Affairs, 27(3), 299.

Walker, P. F., & Hunt, J. R. (2011). The legacy of Reykjavik and the future of nuclear disarmament. Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists, 67(6), 63-72.

 

Books at UIUC Libraries

Chalmers, Malcolm. (2012). Less is better: nuclear restraint at low numbers. London : Rusi.

Jasper, Ursula. (2014). The politics of nuclear non-proliferation: a pragmatist framework for analysis. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

Kutchesfahani, Sara Z. (2014). Politics and the bomb: the role of experts in the creation of cooperative nuclear non-proliferation agreements. New York, NY : Routledge.

Warren, Aiden. (2014). The Obama administration’s nuclear weapon strategy: the promises of Prague. Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

 

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Copyright Week Sparks Discussion of Copyright in the Digital Age

This week, in a campaign spearheaded by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, numerous organizations including the American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries are participating in Copyright Week. The campaign calls attention to the main challenges of copyright in the digital age, focusing on a different principle each day. These principles include “Transparency”, “Building and Defending a Robust Public Domain”, “Open Access”, “You Bought it, You Own it”, “Fair Use Rights”, and “Getting Copyright Right.” The goal of the campaign is to allow for the exchange of ideas and opinions on how to adjust copyright law for the digital age without infringing upon the free and open nature of the Internet.

These concepts have garnered an increasing amount of attention since the widespread internet protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) two years ago, and are still being debated by lawmakers in the US and around the world. While the public’s massive show of opposition against SOPA and PIPA in 2012 led legislators to reject the bills, the issues are far from settled. Dialogues such as the EFF’s Copyright Week are important in finding a way to regulate online piracy and protect copyrighted works without infringing on users’ rights or encumbering the Internet’s immense potential for spreading ideas and knowledge. This year will bring renewed efforts at passing anti-piracy laws, including a chapter in a huge international trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is reported to include new legislation on the subject. A robust and active discussion of copyright and its implications in the digital age is integral to ensuring that legislation remains transparent, fair, and productive for the future.

Stay informed about copyright law! These sources are a great starting point.

Websites:

Copyright Week Official Website

Electronic Frontier Foundation

World Intellectual Property Organization

ALA Washington Office Official Blog

IFLA on Copyright

Books from UIUC Libraries:

Brousseau, Eric., Marzouki, Meryem.Méadel, Cécile. (Eds.) (2012). Governance, regulations and powers on the Internet. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.

Burri, Mira,Cottier, Thomas. (Eds.) (2012). Trade governance in the digital age: World Trade Forum. New York : Cambridge University Press.

Seiter, William J., Seiter, Ellen. (2012). The creative artist’s legal guide: copyright, trademark, and contracts in film and digital media production. New Haven : Yale University Press.

Travis, Hannibal. (Eds.) (2013). Cyberspace law: censorship and regulation of the Internet. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

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World Social Science Report 2013: Focusing on Changing Global Environments

The latest Social Science Report from UNESCO, released on November 15th, highlights the changing global environment and the impact that environmental changes have on social, economic, and political issues. The report highlights the need for in-depth research on environmental changes from a social science perspective, pointing to three “defining attributes” of modern global issues that particularly require the attentions of social science researchers. These three attributes are “The inseparability of social and environmental systems and problems,” “A human condition without precedent,” and “Urgent and fundamental social transformation.” With the goal of creating a basis for social science research in the field of environmental change, and spurring increased interest in the area among the social science community, the report includes perspectives from 150 authors from a variety of disciplines.

Although social scientists have been studying global environmental change since the 1950s, the field is still mostly dominated by natural science research. Asserting that the complex issue of environmental change requires a cross-discipline approach, the authors of the World Social Science Report call for the integration of global change research from around the world into an international multi-disciplinary research campaign.* The argument is that “global change changes everything.” Humans rely on the natural resources that the Earth provides, and changes in the natural world present very real and pressing challenges for humanity, challenges which require a broad perspective that draws on wisdom from many different disciplines. The most effective way to understand and navigate major global issues like environmental change is through a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to research and development. Hopefully this report will be an effective motivator for members of the social science community to tackle the issues surrounding global environmental change and to reach out to other disciplines to form collaborative partnerships and launch new paths of research on the subject.

* One organization, Future Earth, is attempting this integration through an alliance of international organizations that will endeavor to find solutions to global change issues.

Want to learn more about global environmental change from a social science perspective? Here are some great sources on the topic!

World Social Science Report 2013 – Changing Global Environments – Executive Summary

Future Earth

News Sources on the Report

UN News Center

Reuters

Scholarly Articles

Bradatan, Cristina. (2013). Where do we go from here? Climate change as a human affair. International Sociology. 28, 496.

Ehrlich, Paul R.. (2011). Seeking environmental solutions in the social sciences. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 67(5), 1-8.

Lahsen, Myanna. (2013). Climategate: the role of the social sciences. Climatic Change, 119(3-4), 547-558.
Moss, R. H., Edmonds, J. A., Hibbard, K. A., Manning, M. R., Rose, S. K., van Vuuren, D. P., & Wilbanks, T. J. (2010). The next generation of scenarios for climate change research and assessment. Nature, 463(7282), 747-756.

Books from UIUC Libraries

Almlund, Pernille., Jespersen, Per Homann, Riis, Søren. (Eds.) (2012). Rethinking climate change research: clean-technology, culture and communication. Farnham, Surrey, England ; Ashgate Pub. Co.

Driessen, P, P. J., Leroy, Pieter, Vierssen, Wilhelmus van. (Eds.) (2010). From climate change to social change :perspectives on science-policy interactions. Utrecht : International Books.

Harper, Charles L. (2012). Environment and society: human perspectives on environmental issues. Boston : Prentice Hall.

Hastrup, Kirsten.Olwig, Karen Fog. (Eds.) (2012). Climate change and human mobility: global challenges to the social sciences. Cambridge. England : Cambridge University Press.

O’Brien, Karen L., St. Clair, Asuncion Lera, Kristoffersen, Berit. (Eds.) (2010). Climate change, ethics and human security. New York : Cambridge University Press.

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NSA Leaks Bring Surveillance, Privacy, Digital Security to the Forefront

The recent public discovery of massive NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens as well as foreign citizens and even foreign leaders has opened up a conversation about human rights, the “surveillance industrial complex,” (Gates, 2012) and the implications of the new age of surveillance on international relations.  In late October, the news that the NSA had been monitoring the personal cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel since 2002 sent shockwaves through the international community and prompted many governments to demand new rules for international intelligence gathering.  But the latest leaks from NSA documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the U.S. is not the only government with large-scale surveillance programs.  Reuters reported on November 2nd that “[s]py agencies across Western Europe are working together on mass surveillance of Internet and phone traffic comparable to programmes run by their U.S. counterpart” (Shirbon, 2013).

Clearly, international political leaders have much to discuss about how digital security and surveillance will be governed in the future. A new study by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs concludes that the surveillance activities that have been undertaken by the NSA, GCHQ, and other European intelligence agencies violate several European Union laws. The study recommends that the full nature of these intelligence programs be exposed for analysis and asserts that “A ‘professional code for the transnational management of data’ within the EU should be set up, including guidelines on how this code would apply to EU partners” The study also argues that “[l]arge-scale EU surveillance programmes also compromise the security and fundamental human rights of citizens and residents in the Union, in particular those related to privacy and effective legal protection” (Bigo et al, 2013).  Undoubtedly, European and U.S. policymakers will be discussing and debating these surveillance activities in the months and years to come, and the stakes will only rise as technology advances and as more of our lives take place and become documented in the digital realm.

Want to learn more about this topic? The sources below will get your started!

Scholarly Articles

Bigo, Didier, Carrera, Sergio, Hernanz, Nicholas, Jeandesboz, Julien, Parkin,Joanna, Ragazzi, Francesco, and Scherrer,   Amandine. (2013). Mass Surveillance of Personal Data by EU Member States and its Compatibility with EU Law. (Report No. 61) Brussels : The Centre for European Policy Studies.

Ball, K.S and D. Murakami Wood. (2013). Editorial. Political Economies of Surveillance. Surveillance & Society 11(1/2): 1-3.

Richards, N. M. (2013). THE DANGERS OF SURVEILLANCE. Harvard Law Review, 126(7), 1934-1965.

Books from the UIUC Library

Assange, Julian., Appelbaum, Jacob, Müller-Maguhn, AndyZimmermann, Jérémi. (2012). Cypherpunks: freedom and the future of the internet. New York : OR Books.

Ball, K.S. and Snider, L. (eds). (2013). The Surveillance Industrial Complex: Towards a Political Economy of Surveillance. London, New York: Routledge.

Gates, K. 2012. The Globalization of Homeland Security, in K.S. Ball, D.H. Haggerty and D. Lyon (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies. London / New York: Routledge, 292-300.

Johnson, Emily M.Rodriguez, Michael J. (Eds.) (2012). Legalities of GPS and cell phone surveillance. New York : Novinka.

Luppicini, Rocci. (Eds.) (2013) Moral, ethical, and social dilemmas in the age of technology theories and practice. Hershey, Pa. : IGI Global.

Pimple, Kenneth D.. (Eds.) (2013). Emerging pervasive information and communication technologies (PICT) :ethical challenges, opportunities and safeguard. Dordrecht : Springer.

Rosen, David,Santesso, Aaron. (2013). The watchman in pieces: surveillance, literature, and liberal personhood. New Haven : Yale University Press.

Trottier, Daniel. (2012). Social media as surveillance: rethinking visibility in a converging world. Surrey,  England:  Ashgate.

News Coverage of NSA Leaks

Reuters

The Guardian

The Huffington Post

Al Jazeera

 

 

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New Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report: Debates and Implications

Climate change is an issue that, perhaps more than any other, exemplifies the complexity of intergovernmental cooperation and international policymaking. For decades, climate change has been debated and discussed in the forum of international politics, most notably since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was negotiated in 1992. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established in 1988, produces reports on the status of climate change based on the latest in peer-reviewed scientific literature on the topic. Since its inception, the IPCC has published four major reports on the status of climate change, each of which have been heavily relied upon by policymakers worldwide in creating environmental policy at the national and international levels.
This week, the IPCC released Working Group I of the Fifth Assessment Report (Working groups II, III, and the Final Synthesis Report will be released in 2014.) The report states that it is “extremely likely” that human activities have been a contributing factor to climate change in the last 60 years. This shows an increase in certainty of human involvement in climate change since the IPCC’s last report in 2007. The report provides projections of future climate change, with four scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions. It also provides a peak “target” level of greenhouse gas emissions, at which climate changes will become irreversible.
Since becoming a topic of international discussion, as well as grounds for national and international environmental policy, the science of climate change has often been mired in public skepticism. The IPCC itself came under attack by skeptics in 2009, when thousands of emails between IPCC scientists were leaked to the public. Critics claimed that the emails showed negligence and even deliberate tampering of climate data. While eight independent committees found no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct in the emails, public distrust of climate science remains an issue and influences environmental policy.
Nevertheless, international leaders are certain to draw upon the findings of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report in negotiating a new treaty to reduce emissions. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General, plans to assemble a panel of world leaders in 2014 to negotiate just such a treaty, and once again the world will watch as climate change becomes a forum for international debate and policymaking.

Official releases on the new study:

Summary of the UN Committee’s finding for policymakers
IPCC Press Release
IPCC “More Info” page about AR5

Press coverage of AR5:

New York Times
Reuters

Official government policies on climate change:

EU Summary of policy on climate change
EPA website on climate change

Selected Books at UIUC Library on Climate Change/Politics:

Boasson, Elin Lerum; Wettestad, Jørgen. (2013) EU Climate Policy: industry, policy interaction and external environment. Farnham, Surrey, England : Ashgate.

Kellow, Aynsley J.Boehmer-Christiansen, Sonja. (Eds.) (2010) The international politics of climate change. Cheltenham, UK : Edward Elgar.

Osofsky, Hari M.; McAllister, Lesley K. (2012) Climate change law and policy. New York : Wolters Kluwer.

Wang, Weiguang; Zheng, Guoguang; Pan, Jiahua. (Eds.) (2012) China’s climate change policies. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; Routledge.

Scholarly articles on politics of climate change:

Andonova, L. B., Betsill, M. M., & Bulkeley, H. (2009). Transnational Climate Governance. Global Environmental Politics, 9(2), 52-73.

Compston, H. (2010). The Politics of Climate Policy: Strategic Options for National Governments. Political Quarterly, 81(1), 107-115.

Davidson, S. (2010). Climategate hits the IPCC. Institute Of Public Affairs Review, 62(1), 26-28.

Ravindranath, N. H. (2010). IPCC: accomplishments, controversies and challenges. Current Science, 99(1), 26-35.

Zajko, M. (2011). The Shifting Politics of Climate Science. Society, 48(6), 457-461.

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