Posts Tagged ‘ international comparisons ’

Security cameras vs. the Miami Gardens Police Department

Ravaged by drug crimes and gang activity, Miami Gardens finally found some statistical relief the last couple of years in overall crime only to be overshadowed by climbing homicide rates. The Florida city is in dire need of trusted cooperation between law enforcement and the community.

However, the community is not only being short-changed by the efforts of the Miami Gardens Police Department, their rights are being violated in the process. The infringement has been so drastic as to prompt shopkeeper Alex Saleh to purchase and install 15 security cameras to surveil and document police activity at his store. One of his employees, Earl Sampson, has been arrested countless times for trespassing at the store, his own place of work. In spite of not once being convicted of anything more than marijuana possession, his rap sheet stacks intimidatingly high against him: 56 arrests, over 100 searches, and 258 times he has been stopped and questioned.

Sampson isn’t the lone victim to the harassment. Another employee was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm. Charges were never filed, however, as the firearm was found during an illegal search captured on security cameras.

Once Saleh signed up and posted a sign endorsing zero tolerance as the police had requested his business to do, the police have frequented the store at incessant rates. Saleh claims that the police have harassed him as well once he started questioning them and sticking up for the rights of his employees and customers. On one occasion a patrol of 6 policemen comprising the entire Miami Gardens Rapid Action Deployment squad marched in and posted up ceremoniously for 10 minutes side by side as one went in to use the restroom. Saleh, bemused, could only ask questions to which the squad gave no response. On another night, two policemen followed Saleh out to his car and wrote him up for the tail light above his license plate being out. Two more patrol cars came to bring the total policemen necessary to write a tag light ticket to 6. They searched his car and found a gun, which Saleh had a license to carry. Saleh claims the police threatened with an expletive that they were going to get him before they finally left. The security tape of the parking lot from the night before captures a perfectly working tag light on Saleh’s car.

There are plenty of ways to analyze and speculate about the controversy in Miami Gardens and the egregious profiling habits of its police department. What is most important, however, is to realize how iconic this case is of the social injustice that plays out in the United States on an everyday basis and the real lives it ruins.

The ACLU recently released a report revealing that although whites are a little more likely to smoke marijuana, blacks are almost 4 times as likely to get arrested for it. Racial profiling abounds, and hopefully ambassadors like the Alex Saleh’s sticking up for victims like the Earl Sampson’s can do enough to at least bring awareness to the injustice of a society that too often would prefer to roll over and sleep on it.

To explore further how far behind the U.S. is compared to other social democracies concerning issues like these and many more, please visit our Social Justice page at InternationalComparisons.org.

Examining the German and Californian shifts on immigration

International Organization for Migration sign promotes the benefits that immigrants bring.

International Organization for Migration sign promotes the benefits that immigrants bring in front of the UN building in New York. Credit: internationalcomparisons.org

“Kinder statt Inder” or “Children before Indians” was reverberated throughout Germany pervasively in both policy and public attitude only a decade ago. Since then, Germany’s success at withstanding the financial crisis has brought about a good problem, albeit one that requires a shift in such policy and attitude. Germany’s joblessness and decline in overall population has required it to look elsewhere than domestic means in order to fill gaps in its labor force.

In a relatively abrupt 180 degree turn, Germany has welcomed over 33% more immigrants in 2011 than 2010, attempted to ease the adaption process socially by providing language lessons, and have reduced the required financial requirements like minimum salary.

Germany is hardly experiencing a change of heart. The shift comes from certain political motives and not necessarily humanitarian benevolence.  Meanwhile in California, although the impact is yet to prove as profound (especially from the national front), considerable victories have been accomplished just this past week.

While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead. I’m not waiting.

California Governor Jerry Brown sweepingly signed immigration bills one after the other last week in an effort to demonstrate to Washington that, outside of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) from summer of 2012, it will neither lean nor wait on Washington to make demonstrative moves toward immigration reform. DACA has provided some foundation by applying prosecutorial discretion to all cases concerning the children of parents who have immigrated illegally. This has opened the door for states to grant certain liberties to immigrants, and Governor Brown is taking full advantage.

In his first move he granted immigrants the ability to obtain driver’s licenses. Since DACA, the number of states that have allowed driver’s licenses to immigrants has jumped from three to eleven.

He also signed a refined version of the TRUST Act after it easily passed through the state Assembly and Senate. The TRUST Act limits detentions to only those who have committed felonies, not misdemeanors. The TRUST Act is a direct response to the Secure Communities program which was originally intended to remove the most dangerous immigrants with a criminal history. The program, however, has been criticized for removing immigrants with petty misdemeanor charges as well.

Also signed were bills to limit an employer’s ability to threaten to report their immigration status to authorities. This gives the concerned employee more ability to handle wage issues, abuses in the workplace, and to work in an overall better environment according to an LA Times article.

Still another bill has been passed to disallow ones immigration status as a hindrance to becoming an attorney in the state of California.

With his hands more or less tied in Washington, President Obama has no other choice after seeing his Dream Act fail miserably but to resort to relatively quiet measures like DACA and depend on states to take charge from there. California has done just that. Unlike Germany where the motive has been ulterior politically and economically, California truly stands out as it achieves these steps toward immigration reform for the sake of the immigrant, himself.

The two-edged sword of universal health care

As Dr. Philip Caper has revealed, there’s more at stake concerning health care than whether the U.S. should have free health care for all.

He evaluates the costs offered for medicare services in the U.S. compared to the prices for the same procedures (be it a hip replacement, pregnancycolonoscopy, angiogram, or an M.R.I.) in other advanced democracies. When a surgery would cost someone $100,000 in the States in comparison to $13,660 to have it done in Belgium (airfare included), flaws in the more expensive system become glaring.

Furthermore, concerns are drawn in the United States health care system given the discrepancy among prices for the same medicare procedures when compared within the U.S. For example, procedures to treat heart failure and shock in Modesto, CA average a bill of over $92,000. The exact same category averages $3,334 in Danville, Arkansas. Geographical differences only explain so much. Systemic flaws must be at the root of the 2,700% difference.

Credit: Huck/Konopacki Cartoons

The issue in the U.S. is two-fold; therefore, universal healthcare as a solution is also double-edged. Universal health care would make health care an affordable reality for all. One study reveals that 1 out of every 4 elderly people goes bankrupt as a result of health care expenses. The United States has a broken system in which its government spends more per capita (except for Norway) and more as a percent of GDP than any other advanced democracy studied at internationalcomparisons.org.

A U.S. universal health care system would also eliminate pricing discrepancies, as reviewed above, not only in international comparisons, but interstate as well. No longer would people need to shop international hospitals for a colonoscopy or worry why Medicare has no reasonable explanation for price differences in Danville, Arkansas.

It’s a shame and a quandary: not only the systemic debacles, but also the lack of public outcry.

Health Regulation page goes live!

The Health Regulation page is relevant to internationalcomparisons.org for several reasons. Let’s highlight a couple of the most critical:

This is pretty straight forward. A great example is the link between child advertising and child obesity. U.S. advertisers spend $15-17 billion annually on advertisements targeting children. As a direct result, 35% of U.S. children are obese. Only Italy and the UK have rates over 25% in the EU which restricts advertisement to children by the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive which mandates that child advertisement:

a. shall not directly exhort minors to buy a product or a service by exploiting their inexperience or credulity;
b. shall not directly encourage minors to persuade their parents or others to purchase the goods or services being advertised;
c. shall not exploit the special trust minors place in parents, teachers or other persons;
d. shall not unreasonably show minors in dangerous situations;
e. Children’s programs may only be interrupted if the scheduled duration is longer than 30 minutes;
f. Product placement is not allowed in children’s programs;
g. The Member States and the Commission should encourage audiovisual media service providers to develop codes of conduct regarding the advertising of certain foods in children’s programs.

  • The U.S. is the most reluctant advanced democracy to apply the precautionary principle.

In spite of pumping out nearly 20 new chemicals per day (according to Craig Collins’ Toxic Loopholes), the U.S. somehow still doesn’t find it necessary to have tighter policy to regulate the safety of those chemicals. The precautionary principle can be described as a method of policy making by which all chemicals are considered dangerous until proven harmless. Instead, U.S. chemical policy treats the unpredictable agents as innocent until proven guilty. Even once harm is associated with the chemical, certain systemic pitfalls have made it almost impossible to get such chemicals banned. The EU has banned over 1,000 chemicals; the U.S., in spite of the prolific rates at which new chemicals are produced, has banned a laughable total of nine chemicals. Wider application of the precautionary principle could have saved us the multifaceted and widespread hazards from PCBs. Without such tests required, who knows what we’re risking with GMOs and U.S. backed Monsanto initiatives.

Monsanto and India: distinguishing between stakes and culpability

We conclude our Monsanto series with a final blog on the multi-national’s effects in India. Especially with Prince Charles having drawn attention to the crisis as early as 2008, much controversy and accusation has been thrown around by both the company and organic enthusiasts. The controversy in a nutshell could be frased as, “which factors precisely are to blame for the suicide rate increase in India?” As muddled as things have been, it becomes necessary to clarify as much as possible.

      • Multiple factors likely at play in suicide rate and farming failures

        Studies have sourced draughts, untimely rains, rural poverty, and others say that Monsanto is the principal culprit. All of the former factors undoubtedly have a direct and profound, negative impact on farmer suicide rates as well as the impoverishment of the farmers in a more general, yet still very grave sense. It’s difficult to quantify, let alone pinpoint, the source of the farming suicide rates, yet it remains safe to say the Monsanto GE product has only significantly agitated the case.

      • Monsanto’s product hardly “magic”

        Monsanto promised India a biotech cotton product that would be nothing short of “magic.” What Indian farmers got didn’t even live up to being “pest-proof” as promised. To the extent to which this directly caused how many farmers to take their own lives is difficult to determine; what can be established, however, is that Monsanto has followed its own footsteps in a long history of choosing the betterment of its name and bottom line over the livelihood of its clients or those befallen to the consequences of the company’s decisions. Such fantastical promises worked out better for Monsanto’s strategy than the success of the farmers.

      • Farmer suicides is not the sole issue

        Indian farmers are forced to pay 1,000 percent more for genetically engineered (GE) seeds. Additionally, whereas with organic seeds Indian farmers even after a season with little to no product can still salvage the seed for sewing next season’s crop, the Monsanto seed is genetically engineered to yield a seedless crop, leaving the farmer with no choice but to buy additional seed. Antagonizing the draught issue, Monsanto crops require twice as much water as the traditional product. With the government having aggressively pressured Indian farmers over the last decade to convert to the Monsanto seed, the farmer has found himself in a debt trap, unable to benefit from India’s Green Revolution.

Finally, it should be noted that the Monsanto clients in India are not the only ones being affected. Early this year, Dr. Vandana Shiva controversially tweeted the genetically modified organism imposition in India to rape. Sayer Ji clarifies and defends Dr. Shiva’s claim by noting that

… many GMO crops are wind and insect pollinated, their pollen (and the transgenes they carry) easily evade containment and are capable of traveling great distances. For instance, if pollen from genetically modified corn reaches a receptive non-GMO corn plant, transgenes will be forcibly integrated (through sexual reproduction) into the germline of their offspring, rendering them and all their future offspring permanently GMO. This could therefore be defined as a form of ‘bio-rape.’

As the product pollinates and yields a crop carrying the transgene to the unknowing, faultless farmer, he then becomes liable to Monsanto as using their patented product outside of contract. Just as the culpability for farmer suicide rate increases in India may not be Monsanto’s sole responsibility, the consequences are not limited to Monsanto farmer suicides or even Monsanto farmers themselves.

What the Snowden scenario offers us from an international affairs perspective

Edward Snowden’s pursuit for political asylum is captivating from many international affairs perspectives. One that particularly has my attention is to what extent U.S. exceptionalism will attempt to buck not only other states’ sovereignty, but also international rule of law.

Where’s Snowden? Credity: heavy.com

Indeed, this could turn out to be a fascinating showdown indicating which holds more pertinence: the cumulated efforts among international organizations, the relevance of international law, and assistance from human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International versus the once highly favored, yet still proven counterweight, U.S.

Snowden’s claiming under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that he is entitled to political asylum, and that it is the sovereignty of a host nation (in this case Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and potentially Russia) to grant him. Somebody should probably point out the irony in the United States’ prolific reluctance to sign and ratify international treaties, yet still deny rights granted in treaties that they not only signed and ratified, but its former First Lady also championed and authored.

Such duplicity is nothing new coming from the U.S., but the organization and cooperation in the international community could pose a threat that the U.S., especially given its waning clout, is not used to facing.

More on gun control: utilizing a healthy rationale

Moderation is key Credit: skepticink.com

As thoroughly established in last week’s blog, it’s entirely implausible to revoke all gun rights with the second amendment’s clarity in establishing the right to bear arms. Equally erroneous is the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) tirelessly obstinate refusal to consider anything resembling regulation or compromise.

Both sides need to take a break from either polarity in order to find some sort of common ground if we are to resolve anything in this controversy. Such common ground is hardly extreme. We review five “commonsense” options as provided by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Erwin Chemerinsky and Robert Steinbuch. (For an idea on how nonsensical gun laws can be here in the States, look no further than another one of our previous blogs.)

  1. Extend background check requirements: Most notably, this should include gun show sales and private sales. This loophole is too big to ignore and of which is too easy for potential criminals to take advantage.
  2. Expand the FBI’s database with more thorough information: Today, the requisite information is hardly sufficient in determining whether the consumer can be considered safe. The background checks should require more information about the individual.
  3. Reinstate liability of gunmakers: Thanks to heavy lobbying efforts from organizations like the NRA, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was passed in 2005, effectually removing any liability a gunmaker could have in a lawsuit. Gunmakers should be held responsible like producers of all other legal products.
  4. Certain weapons ban: The phrase used here by Chemerinsky and Steinbuch is “weapons that serve no other purpose than to kill a large number of the public in a short amount of time.” They also make the point that society has always been assertive in setting limits on the availability of the most dangerous weapons. It is quite reasonable to regulate such weapons without challenging the second amendment.
  5. Regulate magazine size: There have been instances in which gunmen (Cherminsky and Steinbuch cite the Long Island Railroad killer) have been stopped only when they ran out of ammunition in one magazine and needed to change to another. The application is obvious: if the magazine had less capacity, the opportunity to stop him would have come sooner and before he had the chance to kill more people. Larger magazine capacities hardly serve any other functional value.