Zika Virus and Abortion

With the current Zika Virus Epidemic, Brazil must face the on going debate regarding abortion. Pregnant women are in panic because several cases suggest that the Zika virus causes microcephaly in babies–a condition in which a person’s head is significantly smaller than normal for their age and sex.

Brazil, like many Latin American countries, bans abortion. Currently, they face the task of trying to lift such ban in order to prevent microcephaly in unborn babies. Lifting the ban would probably justify abortions in these extreme cases, but I am certain the Brazilian government would still be stringent on their abortion policies outside of cases such as this one.

The LDS church stands that some exceptional circumstances for abortion which include when a pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.

The way abortion is in Brazil right now, women even under the extreme circumstances cannot get one. Does micropheny constitute a severe birth defect that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth? Should Brazil remain stringent with its abortion laws, even under extreme circumstances? Even if the ban was partially lifted, would women have to have their cases proven by a doctor and the court? Is proving such cases to the court fair to women? These are some of the thought provoking questions that Brazil must tackle before babies with mirocephaly are born.



The Taliban Assassination of a 10 year old.

With the recent up-rise of ISIS, Afghanistan and the Taliban has almost slipped through the cracks of the global stage. This week they made the headlines again, but this time it brought up a different issue- child soldiers. Wasil Ahmad was literally held up on a pedestal last summer for successfully leading a group of militiamen in attacking the Taliban at the age of 10. After this celebration, Wasil was enrolled in fourth grade. Wasil was an unfocused student, distracted by thoughts of weapons and war which is where he knew he was talented. Unfortunately Wasil was targeted outside his home on Monday and shot twice in the head by a Taliban member.

This event is horrific. It has shone the light on the fact that the issue of child soldiers still exists and is destroying lives. There are many big problems around the world, but in my opinion this is one of the biggest. It was the local police officials that encouraged Wasil to fight, to be publicly recognized, and to live as a child soldier. The U.N. has a lot on its plate, but they need to enforce the rights of children by regulating these government sectors in order to eradicate the practice of encouraging children to be involved in the militia.


Democrats fighting each other for us?

Hilary Clinton narrowly won Iowa over Bernie Sanders, and as the focus turns to New Hampshire, the candidates have made it clear that there is an ideological clash with each other. Hilary’s most regent slogan reads “Fighting for us”, which rings true in more than one way.

Sanders sees a more “robust” role of government, whereas Clinton takes a more “modest” approach. The clash between ideologies is rare with the democratic party, and is perhaps the most notable clash in the last few decades. Both candidates seek to take the countries different ways after President Obama leaves office. Both also have dividing views on the economy. The debate now is determining which ideology is best for the democratic party. Who are you more likely to side with?



Carpet Bombing ISIS

I completely agree with the top U.S. General that we cannot just carpet bomb ISIS. Trump’s idea that we need to kill their families just does not follow our national values. It is easy to command a ground soldier to do something from a safe place thousands of miles away. If he was the one that was in the Middle East having to kill the wives and children of the ISIS member I am pretty sure it wouldn’t be so easy. It is also a very complex situation that requires a lot of intelligence to determine who the enemies really are. It would be completely immoral to kill off innocent civilians just because they live in an area close to ISIS that we intend to carpet bomb.

The reason so many countries look to us for answers and action is because of the values we stand for. The United States is a country that has the military power to cause mass murder in situations like this so it is important to follow our standards and handle this situation delicately. It is understandable that people want quick resolutions; especially people that are directly affected by the damage that ISIS is causing but unfortunately, there is no fast solution. This will be a long and grueling battle with no easy options. We have to wait for more intelligence and slowly pick off enemy targets one by one. It is definitely not as simple as just dropping a bunch of bombs on the area and wiping them all out with the civilians. It is important to be diplomatic as a President and it is likely that Trump is using these types of statements to appeal to his far right wing voters. I do not see him being able to act on any of these ideas if he were to actually get into office.


Are social media “revolutions” effective?

Wael Ghonim, an Egyptian Google employee started what society would call a “facebook revolution” based on an image he saw while browsing facebook.

He said, “I saw a photo … of a tortured, dead body of a young Egyptian guy. His name was Khaled Said. Khaled was a 29-year-old Alexandrian who was killed by police. I saw myself in his picture. … I anonymously created a Facebook page and called it ‘We Are All Khaled Said.’ In just three days, the page had over 100,000 people, fellow Egyptians who shared the same concern.”

Although this group did bring people together and cause them to take action against Mubarak’s regime, Ghonim says that in the end it only intensified polarization “by facilitating the spread of misinformation, rumors, echo chambers and hate speech.”

He stayed quiet on social media for two years after, and came to these conclusions: First, people believe too many rumors. Second, we tend to only communicate with people we agree with. Through social media, we can block, unfollow, or unfriend everyone else. Third, discussions online can easily turn into heated arguments where we forget that  we are talking to real people. Fourth, it is hard to change our opinions once we have already posted them, because they live on the internet forever. And fifth, we tend to talk at each other instead of with each other. Our posts are short, shallow, and attention-grabbing, rather than facilitating deep and meaningful conversations.

Ghonim believes that in order to liberate society, we must first liberate the internet. He and some friends recently started a website called Parlio.com to host “intelligent, civil” conversations about controversial issues.


Honoring Hero Builds Burnt Bridges

In January 1945 Sergeant Edmonds preserved the lives of 200 of his fellow prisoners by refusing to disclose which men were Jewish to the German officer holding him at gunpoint. Along with their symbol of sacrifice that saved so many and reminded all of us about humanity, these acts of heroism have brought together two nations in tension many years later. Sergeant Edmonds and other heroes were honored for their actions by President Obama, at the seventy first anniversary of Auschwitz liberation in Israel.

It’s no secret that there is some tension between Obama and the Israeli government. But this event marked some huge progress in the rebuilding of American-Isralei relations. At the even President Obama gave a speech about the evils of anti-Semitism and reaffirmed a commitment to help protect Israel, making him the first current President to speak at the Israeli embassy. As the article mentioned this was particularly significant because President Obama publicly disagreed with the Israeli Prime Minister a few months ago because of the Iran nuclear deal.

This event shows the importance of uniting together to celebrate past good and work together towards the positive. Although this might be a seemingly small example, it still shows the power that comes when nations resolve differences because of a common good.



Pressure, Pushing Down on Me, You, and Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush finished sixth in the Iowa Caucuses this past week and is in dire need to reshape the direction of his presidential campaign. Beyond the pressure from his family, Jeb Bush feels the pressure to do well in the upcoming New Hampshire primary.

Many in the Republican party feel that the nomination of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz would lead to an electoral debacle (Trump and Cruz have very extreme views, even within the GOP).

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said “Bush must either need to tie or defeat Rubio in this upcoming New Hampshire primary.” Many have invested in Bush’s campaign which includes $58.6 million from the “super PAC.”

Let’s see what ends up happening to Mr. Bush in this upcoming New Hampshire primary.



Zika Virus, Colombian Terror

Last week, the Colombian Health Ministry announced that there are more than 2000 confirmed cases of the Zika Virus in pregnant women. This announcement coming on the heels of a recent announcement that more than 20000 people have been affected in by the virus in Colombia alone. Experts say that more than 700000 people will contract the disease.

Last week the World Heath Organization declared the Zika virus and its effects especially on pregnant women to be a global health emergency. There is no vaccine for the virus, but scientists are racing to find one. Almost every country in the American continent will be affected, but experts hope to minimize the population that does contract the disease.

This virus with its deadly effects in unborn children, highlights an interesting problem in Colombia and throughout South America. The government does not have the resources or fore-planning to deal with a serious health crisis. Women across the country, both in and outside the city do not have the necessary resources to deal with this problem. The only thing that Colombia can do now is hope that the vaccine is discovered quickly.

The life of a Chef

As I read the article “Top Chef’s Death Shines Light on a High-Pressure World” I was filled with shock. The article talked about French chef, Benoît Violier, who committed suicide in his own home earlier this week. The chef was highly successful and people wondered why he would commit suicide, but upon taking a closer look into the chef community, a cut-throat society was revealed. I never knew that the restaurant industry was so competitive and had such high standards, and that it often drives people, such as Benoît Violier, to the extreme. The chefs experience extreme pressure to achieve perfection, but they do not feel like they can talk to anyone about those pressures. Talking to others and reaching out for help is looked down upon in the chef community and is seen as weak, and that lack of support often pushes the chefs to these extreme acts. It is speculated that Benoît Violier committed suicide after receiving a slightly negative review, succumbing to those same pressures.

Benoît Violier’s death was not the first, and I doubt it will be the last, if things do not change in the chef community—the stresses that they are facing are just too high. It is okay to strive to be your best, but every individual needs a support system to help them achieve those goals and help them when they fail. There are a variety of different support groups for different individuals, so why can’t there be one for chefs? This would dissolve some of the “tough guy” mentality that the chef community is currently supporting and finally allow them to show vulnerability. Maybe this will save the next chef who is struggling just as Benoît Violier was.


Taliban’s attack and the painful reminder of the existense of child combats

Do you remember what your life was like when you were ten years old? I do. I was busy reading stories, squabbling with my sister, going to school, laughing with my friends and trying to be a grown up. That, however, is not a privilege everybody have, especially not in war torn Afghanistan where children are used for combat.

Everybody was doused with cold reality when a ten year old Wasil Ahmad, already a hero for leading a militia’s defense against a Taliban siege last year, was gunned down in the front of his house recently. Wasil’s uncle with his thirty or so men switched to the government side from Taliban a year or so ago and became the government’s front against the Taliban. As Taliban increased its offense attacks, he and his fighters were besieged for more than two months. A month into the siege by Taliban, he and ten of his men were severely wounded. At this point a nine year old Wasil took command of the defense, gunning the offense and firing rockets from the room and finally leading them to victory. After being welcomed as a war hero by the government he had recently started going to school and receiving a formal education.

The fact that nine year old children have to organize defense, gun down people and take on the might of a terrorist organization in the twenty first century is horrendous. The Taliban and even the Afghan government are guilty of using children as combatants and raising another generation in bloodshed and vengeance. This phenomenon which has been going on since a long time in Afghanistan and parts of Africa has spread and led to organizations like the Boko Haram who kidnap children and raise them up forcefully to fight on their behalf.

This begs the question, why are such atrocities going largely unchecked? International organizations like the UN as well as their governments, seem woefully incapable and to some extent even unwilling to take any major action against atrocities like this. There are many issues that needs to be combated in this world and it takes considerable time and resources to do so, but if the use of children in combat isn’t one issue that demands immediate and urgent attention from the media, governments and international organizations, very few things demand it.




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