Hungarian Government’s Internet Taxation Plan Falls to Protestors

Friday the Hungarian Government dropped a proposal that would have taxed internet data usage at a rate of 150 Hungarian forints (about 61 cents) per gigabite.

Hungarian citizens took to the street in the largest protest that has been mounted against the current government.

Hungarian President Viktor Orban publicly acknowledge that the majority was against the tax and affirmed that he would support the voice of the people in this case: “We are not communists, we don’t govern against the people,” Mr. Orban said in his regular weekly interview on Hungarian radio. “We govern together with the people. So this tax, in this form, cannot be introduced.”

Some speculate that the unpopular proposition was introduced at this time to distract the public from current public annoyance at a Rift with the United States. Earlier this month Six unnamed Hungarian public officials were denied U.S. visas because of confirmed reports that they had attempted to bribe American companies.

The move did distract the populace, but their objections to Internet taxation were so strong that the move came at a very high and unanticipated political cost.

I am glad to see people speaking out against Internet taxation in any form– lest the U.S. government should decide that it would be a good idea to do the same. Though– we already pay 3 times more for our broadband than European countries like Britain and France, and 5 times more than countries like South Korea. Monopolies, anyone?

Hungary Drops Internet Tax Plan After Surge of Protests

Cuban Sanctions: ¿Sí o No?

For over five decades, the United States has imposed strict sanctions against Cuba. These sanctions were put in place and remain in place due to the state of human rights and personal freedoms in Cuba. However, opposition to the Cuban sanctions has grown increasingly more significant. Every year, delegates from Havana submit a resolution to the general assembly calling for a repeal of the sanctions. This year, only the US and Israel voted against the resolution, with 188 Member States voting in favor of the Cuban resolution.

In his speech to the General Assembly, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla called for bilateral relations:

We invite the government of the United States to establish a mutually respectful relation, based on reciprocity,” he said. “We can live and deal with each other in a civilized way, despite our differences.

The potential issue with perpetuating these sanctions is that the US has grown increasingly more isolated from other Member States on the Cuba policy. Columbia has been one of the United States’ strongest allies in the Latin American region. However, Columbian delegates are becoming more and more vocal in challenging the US on its Cuba policy.

Is the US justified in defending its Cuba policy? Or, should the US give in to increasing pressure from its allies to revise its policy? What potential implications do you see if the US becomes the only Member State in favor of Cuban sanctions?

Read more about this issue here.

Migrant Workers: Blessing or Curse?

In this era of globalization, more and more people are leaving their country of origin to find work in more developed countries. Many leave from Indonesia, India, the Philippines and Bangladesh to countries like the United States of America or Qatar. Becoming a migrant worker promises higher wages and a better quality of life for you and your family. The money they send back as remittance benefits the family and also helps to stimulate the developing country’s economy. However, many migrant workers leave their country and are faced with serious problems that range from horrible living conditions to the confiscation of their wages and visas. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the richest countries in the world and is the “golden opportunity” to many hoping to support their family. However, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a report condemning the UAE for the treatment of their migrant workers. The HRW has found multiple cases of sexual assault and physical abuse. Many migrant workers also accuse their employers of treating them like animals or over working them. This abuse of inalienable human rights stems from the belief of many employers that they “own” the migrant worker. Often times, employers will pay the immigration fee for the worker to enter into the country, leading to the belief of ownership. In the UAE, as well as other Middle Eastern states, there are no labor law protection for these migrant workers. Also in place in the UAE is the Kafala system, which prevents migrant workers from leaving the country or changing jobs without fear of legal repercussions. This kind of human rights abuse must be dealt with.

Never Forget

Recently in Japan a monument remembering war crimes committed by Japan during World War II was halted after threats from a extreme right wing group. The monument was meant to be built in a small fishing community where 80 Korean captives where killed while building an airstrip, but the threat of boycotts against the town’s scallop industry forced the city to abandon the project. Members of the conservative faction call the men and women in favor of the monument “traitors” who continue to cripple the Japans national pride. The right wing group is tired of apologizing and also reminds the world that Japan was on the business end of war crimes themselves.

These two sides, those who favor the recognition of war crimes and those who wish to give them less attention, are both aggressively supporting their respective stances. Being Japanese myself I know first hand the emotional weight the war still has on Japanese people. It goes without saying that the destruction of that conflict has no parallel, but the decision on how we choose to remember that terrible time arouses debate.

It is totally unfair of right wing Japanese groups to try and force communities to abandon projects like this, but more importantly. Japan should never forget the sins of its past. Being blinded to sins are what is causing so many problems in the Middle East. This history shouldn’t be buried along with the men who fought that war. The lessons still apply, in fact, our modern world is shaped around lessons learned during that war. Diplomacy, defense, the economy, the list continues with example of how that war impacted every person on Earth. Remember also, Japan is not alone. I for one would never want Manzanar or Topaz hushed up as one of America’s great war crimes. To hush up any human rights violations, regardless of national origin or purpose, is counter productive to our growth as an international community.

However, the right wing faction does have a point. They just are too extreme in their stance. The people who are running Japan now were not even born during the war. So when these groups cite examples of others demanding apologies I can see their frustration. I would grow tired of hearing the sins of my fathers and would be upset of people demanded an apology. The same way I think American’s today shouldn’t have to apologize for their great-great-great grandfathers condoning slavery. It was their fight not ours and the war was the responsibility of another generation of Japanese. Consequently, the international community should loosen their aggressive pursuit of recompense through consistent apology in exchange for the recognition war crimes when they encounter them such as in the small fishing town.

Varying Guidelines? How’s That Helping?

Ebola guidelines have been described as many things, but specific is not one of the adjectives being used. There are areas in Texas that have been told that if a patient calls the doctor and is describing symptoms common to Ebola, that the best thing to do is to immediately isolate them from all other patients. Other areas in the nation are suiting up to attempt to help the patients. Others really don’t know how to treat them. These processes did not come directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but instead was a suggestion from local doctors and associations. I, personally, have a small amount of distaste with the C.D.C and have not seen very many instances recently where they have had any effect on what is going on. I will admit that I do not know fully what they are doing or where their priorities lie but I will say that I don’t believe they have done very much for the case of Ebola specifically in the United States. In my opinion, they need to recognize the problem and look for good solutions to how to prevent the spread of the disease instead of leaving everybody to come up with their own solutions. The search for a solid prevention plan does not work very well when every entity is doing its own processes; to come up with a solid plan, there needs to be some solid guidelines. ‘

Human Traffickers in Bay of Bengal Cast Sights on Bangladesh

Human trafficking in Bangladesh has drastically increased over the past couple of years, going from less than 1000 in 2009 to more than 50,000 in 2013. Victims are lured in by promises for jobs or transportation to places where they can live better lives, or are just beaten and kidnapped for sale as slave laborers and other, even worse positions. Although attempts to curb this trafficking have recently increased in Bangladesh and other afflicted countries in the region, these attempts are largely unsuccessful. One person who was successfully ransomed said “I’ve lost everything. It would have been better if I had died at sea.”

This situation is horrifying and troubling at the same time. There is no doubt in any reasonable person’s mind that such trafficking is unacceptable, but there is no obvious solution for this problem in these countries. It is true that some enforcement efforts have found success, but they have done little to slow down trafficking in any significant way. What can be done to solve this problem? I welcome your input.

Is Liberia’s Ebola Outbreak Finally Under Control?

This month there has been a notable decrease in the number of patients being treated for Ebola in Liberia. Ambulances in search of those in need of assistance regularly return with only one or two patients, where in the past they’d transport far more. This weekend it was reported that less than half of the nearly 650 treatment beds in Liberia were in use. With new admissions and new cases dropping consistently. A spokesperson at a Doctors Without Borders treatment center indicated that while they don’t know why there has been a decrease in cases, it’s too early to celebrate or assume containment.

There are several possible explanations for the decrease in patients. The first, is that the projection of 10,000 new cases could be grossly inflated. The second is that the push to educate Liberians is working, and more people recognize the need to seek treatment as soon as symptoms manifest themselves. The third is that rather than seek treatment, those are just dying in their homes because they don’t have access to treatment, or because they don’t want the stigma of being Ebola infected.

Regardless of the explanation it is important that those helping to eradicate Ebola from West Africa do not relax their efforts when presented with these new numbers. There is still much that needs to be done in order to remove Ebola entirely.

Hong Kong’s Democracy Debates

Last week Hong Kong officials met with the leaders of the student-led democracy protest on a live television broadcast to discuss the conflict between them.  Many hoped this would be the beginning of negotiations over the protestors’ demands, but the leaders were not going to budge. Mr. Leung, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said “It is not a negotiation.  We have deliberately said it is a dialogue.  we are all ears, and obviously we are duty-bound to explain to the students and through the media the constitutional arrangements for us to have universal suffrage in Hong Kong.”  The officials made clear that their role was to teach the students the rightness of the law, not negotiate.  Leaders offered that the law could possibly change in the future, but for now the citizens had plenty of progress, and didn’t need more.

How do you feel about the situation?  Can the protestors gain ground? What would cause the government to concede to some of the demands?

Captain of a Sunken Ship Faces Death Penalty

About 6 months ago, on April 16, 2014, a ferry sank killing 304 people. The deaths of most of these people, mostly teenage students, could have been averted if proper action had been taken by the captain, Lee Jun-seok, and his crew. The sinking of this ferry proved to be South Korea’s worst peacetime disaster in decades. Prosecutors are demanding the death penalty for Lee, life imprisonment for the three other crewmen, and 15-30 years in prison for the other 11 crew members. According to the chief prosecutor,

Lee did nothing to help rescue his passengers.

The prosecutors argued that the crew members knew the ship was sinking and that the passengers were waiting inside after repeated instructions for them to stay put and remain inside. All of the crew members safely boarded the first coast guard boats that arrived, leaving behind the passengers in the sinking boat. The prosecutors also argued that the crew members only cared about their own lives.

Lawyers of the captain and crew members argued that their clients had no intention of murdering the passengers and that the crew should not face blame exclusively. The ferry operator had given inadequate training to and safety information to crew and also ignored limits on weight of cargo allowed on board. The captain and crew members said that they felt very remorseful.

The ship actually sank because it made a sharp turn in waters with unpredictable currents. Because the ship was overloaded and cargo was not properly secured, the ship lost balance and began to sink.What should the verdict be for the captain, the crewmen, and the rest of the crew? Should the ferry operator receive punishment as well? A final court verdict for the fate of the captain and crew is expected on November 11.

Additionally, today, a body of a female was found in the remains of the ship; the first body found in 102 days. The ship sank 195 days ago. Nine bodies are still missing. Efforts to retrieve missing bodies will continue until families wish otherwise, however, there are debates as to what should happen as winter approaches.

In Hong Kong, Fears of a Police Crackdown Online


 The sway of mainland China becomes steadily clearer, as is evident by recent crackdowns in Hong Kong. After the police cleared out the pro-democratic protest camp in downtown Mong Kok, an online user posted to a popular online site calling the students to action. “Tonight, if you’re a man” he said, “let us revive Mong Kok.” Although many such comments had been made online, the next day a 23-year-old man who identified himself as just an ordinary Hong Kong youngster was arrested from his house.

The police spokesman asserted inciting others to commit criminal acts on the Internet is illegal and the arrest was therefore just. Critics claim this is an abuse of a statute that prohibits computers from being used for illegal activities such as hacking, fraud, and other online crimes. However, even if the police drop the case, it may already have achieved its desired effect. Word of the “Technology Crime Division” has scared protesters off, wary of the police watching them on and off the Internet.

The arrest underlines the exact values that the protesters are fighting for, namely freedoms from mainland encroachment. Given the arrest there is only more incentive to clarify the role of the government and the interpretation of law enforcement. The case could create significant precedent for Hong Kong law because there is no specific law on incitement. Previous cases have been judged by international law from Britain and the United States.


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