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Striking Syria: Civilian Casualties

The White House announced that it has adopted a looser policy on airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. The United States has been conducting airstrikes against ISIS, and a strike allegedly killed a dozen citizens in Syria. A spokesperson for the National Security Council, Caitlin Hayden, said that President Obama’s policy of only using airstrikes when there was “near certainty” that civilians would not be harmed is not applicable to the airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. This policy has lead to a decreased number of airstrikes, since it requires that each strike be signed off by the President himself and others in the chain of command. However, Hayden claims that these rules were only intended to apply in situations when airstrikes are used in areas that are not “areas of active hostilities,” arguing that airstrikes in actively hostile areas such as Syria do not have to follow the rule. Hayden also said that all strikes have been conducted legally and that the Pentagon will investigate civilian casualties.

Continue reading “Striking Syria: Civilian Casualties”

Making the Case for Cursive

The introduction of technology in the classroom seems like a win-win situation, but psychologists and neuroscientists are hesitant to write handwriting off as a thing of the past. From learning to read to generating new ideas, studies have proven that handwriting enhances a child’s ability to learn. Studies also revealed that messy handwriting also has benefits as well in that “variability [of different types of handwriting] itself might be a learning tool.”

Continue reading “Making the Case for Cursive”

Climate Change? Really?

The thought of global climate change is quite unsettling. No one wants to actually believe that our planet is heating up so much that there are enormous droughts in the Midwest, destructive storms off the coasts, and massive flooding as icebergs melt and water levels rise. The average American already has too much on his or her plate to add “save planet earth to the list of to do’s.” So, many people instead decide it is better, and easier, to just not think about it. Yet, this failure to acknowledge the fact that global warming is real and to make life adjustments to try and prevent the destruction of our planet highlights an ethical issue rampant in our society today; failure to take responsibility for our actions.

Global warming is not made up. MSN News reports, “Driven by exceptionally warm ocean waters, Earth smashed a record for heat in May and is likely to keep on breaking high temperature marks.” If you are a person who usually takes a back seat to global issues such as climate warming, it is time to grab the steering wheel and take control of not only your future, but the future of your family in generations to come.

A tremendous call for action was seen just a couple weeks ago as tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in the streets of Manhattan in an unanimous plea to reverse global climate change. Last week, the UN Climate Summit commenced at the UN headquarters in New York with the goal of creating an action plan and discussing new initiatives to combat climate change.

What role can I play?

First, stand up and take responsibility for your actions. No one is perfect, but we can all make a greater effort to protect our planet so it lasts for future generations. The Climate March should stand as encouragement for all to make more eco-friendly life decisions. Simple things like recycling, carpooling, shorter showers, and re-usable water bottles and silverware may seem small, yet in the long run, they add up.

If you’re even more ambitious, reach out to  friends. Encourage them to be eco-friendly, and make them more aware of the threatening situation of global climate change we currently face.

We don’t have time to ignore the blatant, and scary, signs anymore. Global warming is happening regardless of whether we as a society choose to believe it or not. So, what are you going to do about it? Challenge yourself to be better and accept the ethical responsibility to work toward change. What else can we do to combat global warming?

No More Deaths: Fatal realities of border militarization

No More Deaths is a Tucson, AZ based humanitarian aid organization working to prevent the deaths of migrants crossing the Mexico-US border.

According to Kate Morgan-Olsen, a long-term aid worker with No More Deaths, “The organization provides food, water, and medical support to migrants crossing through the Tucson sector of the border; documents and exposes the human rights violations that migrants experience at the hands of US law enforcement; and works in coalition with Tucson organizations to address racist laws resulting in mass deportations of undocumented members of local communities.” The article, “Designed to Kill: Border policy and how to change it” provides a first-hand account of the impossible situations that No More Deaths seeks to stop.  It was originally published by an anonymous author who has worked as a long-term desert aid volunteer, coming face to face with the most ruthless circumstances that the desert renders.

When envisioning the border, one likely sees something along the lines of a vast wall that separates one nation from another. However, the author explains that in Arizona there is no need for a physical border because the desert itself is a trap that allows very few to escape. For this reason, migrants die on border territory to the forces of heat, exhaustion, dehydration, starvation, trauma and injury every single day in exchange for the possibility of a new life. Border authorities are far from unaware of the cheap, disposable labor that those who make it will provide.

Facing death in the desert is anything but a choice for most migrants. With the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement on January 1st, 1994, Mexican agricultural communities faced privatization of what were often once communal lands. Beyond this, subsidized U.S. agribusinesses began to compete with local farmers, putting many out of work. As the gap between the global North and South began to widen exponentially, many were forced to migrate.

With these realities at hand, everything we know or are taught to believe about the intentions of border authority comes into question. What is our role to stop death in the desert, and is what some consider a “Band-Aid” solution enough to stop the violence?

Interested in learning more about the work of No More Deaths? Please join us on Wednesday, October 8th from 4:15pm-5:30pm in Academic Quad  at DePauw to welcome Kate Morgan-Olsen. Kate is a past long-term volunteer with No More Deaths and will speak to the work the organization does while also giving a context of border history, how it developed, and why it is so deadly.

Time to Give NFL’s Blackout Rule the Boot

Originally appeared in The Indianapolis Star

The Federal Communications Commission is supposed to ensure that the electronic media serve the public interest. A current FCC rule, however, works primarily to serve the interests of a few of America’s wealthiest individuals. That’s why the FCC appears poised to end its blackout rule for National Football League games.

For many years, NFL television contracts have prohibited the broadcast of any game in a local market in which the stadium is not sold out. The NFL wants to guarantee the revenue stream that sold-out stadiums provide, even though some economists claim there is no connection between broadcasting games in the home market and fan attendance.

The FCC decided in 1975 to support the NFL’s local blackouts by also prohibiting cable or satellite services from importing broadcasts of those games. Thus, the NFL, which already has anti-trust protection from the government, also has had FCC collaboration in preventing fans from seeing their hometown teams on television.

Late in last year’s football season, acting FCC chair Mignon Clyburn proposed getting the commission out of the sports blackout business. Clyburn questioned whether the blackout rules were in the public interest, “particularly at a time when higher ticket prices and the economy make it difficult for many sports fans to attend games.”

FCC commissioner Ajit Pai had even stronger words against the rule in a speech last month in Buffalo: “I don’t believe the government should intervene in the marketplace and help sports leagues enforce their blackout policies. Our job is to serve the public interest, not the interests of team owners.”

The location of Pai’s speech is noteworthy. The Buffalo Bills’ games have been blacked out more often in recent years than any other NFL team. By the way, it’s often bitterly cold outside when late season games in Buffalo are played. And the Bills haven’t had a winning season since 2004.

Current FCC chair Tom Wheeler also has announced his opposition and will call for a vote to discontinue the blackout provisions at a meeting later this month.

The NFL faces fourth and very long in its efforts to keep the rule, but that hasn’t kept it from a massive lobbying and public relations effort, complete with scare tactics and half-baked reasoning. The NFL, for example, has enlisted the National Association of Broadcasters to threaten that elimination of the FCC rule could lead to all games being telecast only on pay services, not free over-the-air channels. In fact, that could happen only if the NFL itself chose to move in that direction.

The NFL also has gotten the support of the Conference of State Legislatures and the Congressional Black Caucus to claim that elimination of the rule would hurt local economies by keeping fans away on game days, thus harming stadium employees, nearby restaurant owners and so forth. The reality is that stadiums fail to sell out when teams lose too often or inclement weather interferes. The FCC blackout rule doesn’t fix either of those problems.

The NFL generates about $10 billion a year in revenue, with the biggest chunks from television contracts and merchandise. Ticket sales aren’t as big a factor as in 1975. The NFL money machine generated $275 million in new revenue this fall by signing CBS to air eight Thursday night games. That should be more than enough to cover a few empty seats in Buffalo in December.

Virtually all NFL owners are billionaires. Meanwhile, television ratings hinge on the eyeballs of millions of fans who can’t afford to pay high prices to attend a game, many of which are played in stadiums built with taxpayer money. It is high time for the FCC to end this 40-year losing streak and win one for the fans.

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The FDA and Banning Shock Therapy

The FDA is currently debating whether skin shocking devices should be banned for use on patients with autism and developmental/intellectual disabilities that display self-harmful or violent behaviors. The only treatment center to use skin shocks, the Judge Rotenburg Center in Caton, Mass., treats 55 patients with skin shocks. The center and some families claim that these skin shocks have been the only way to treat the violent behavior of certain disabled individuals being treated at the center. The skin shocks are delivered with a device attached to the arms or legs, called a GED or graduated electronic decelerator, which delivers a 2-second shock to the patient when he or she becomes violent or self-harmful. Before the center can use the shocking device, they must be granted court approval. The center and various patients describe the shocks as equivalent to a bee sting or a hard pinch; others say it is worse than that, with one comparing it to being “stung by a thousand bees.” Another patient claims that the shocks are terribly painful, and have caused nightmares. However, one mother said that the only treatment that worked on her son was shock therapy, and told the FDA via video, “Do not take away what is saving his life.” An advisory committee for the FDA identified that the devices pose a high risk, although they noted that some less jarring therapy methods have proved ineffective.

Continue reading “The FDA and Banning Shock Therapy”

Mom, I Need an iPad For School!

Many classrooms these days are increasing their daily use of technology by implementing the use of iPads. It has become a national trend in many primary and elementary schools to require every student to purchase an iPad. Environmentally, iPads are great. They save loads of paper, yay! Economically, online books tend to be cheaper than physical hard copies. Socially, they’re trendy, popular and cool. And lastly, iPads are much better with organization than a bunch of worksheets jammed into one folder that get smushed at the bottom of a backpack.

Bottom Line: iPads are easier and more efficient. They’re awesome. It makes sense to begin to take advantage of this technology we have and weave them into our education system. However, before everyone gets all comfy cozy with this fab idea, it is critical to take the time and consider the possible implications of introducing technology into a classroom of such young pupils.

Let’s take the case of the decrease in attention rates. Is there any shock that there has been a spike in the rate of children and adolescents who have attention deficit disorders? Personally, I don’t find it surprising at all. What else would one expect from all the technology we’re exposed to and so reliant on. In his book, The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, Nicholas Carr describes the neuroplasticity of our brains and how they have been reshaped by our constant use of technology and our hyper ability to multitask. For example, while you’re checking your email, you receive a text. Check text while you’re replying to email. Ad on the side of screen appears and its a really nice pair of shoes. Oooh those shoes are cute. Online shop while continuing to text and having a multitude of other internet browser tabs up. Our brains have become rewired to work like this. It would be no surprise to me if the iPads in classrooms accelerated this because you would become so exposed to multitasking at such a young age. For example, you’re in class and the teacher is asking you to work on an iAssignment (is that what they will call work sheets?) and a banner notification appears. Its an iChat from your best friend across the room. Hi Cindy.  At this point you’re already multitasking, doing the assignment, and on iChat. You’ve already been distracted, and it has only been 2 minutes since the teacher told you to get the iPad out and begin working. Imagine this occurring every time the iPads are used and think about how this would affect the learning process for young kids.

 Scientific American, sheds light on this topic by answering how the technologies we use to read (iPads, Kindles, etc) change the way we read. Similar to Nicholas Carr’s findings, Scientific American, provides evidence to suggest that reading e-books have a negative impact on comprehension and retention. After reading something electronically, psychologists ran tests that distinguished the ability to recall bits of information and actual retained knowledge from the piece read. The results of this study were consistent with the beliefs of Nicholas Carr and the Scientific American article.  The leading psychologist of the study, Kate Garland concluded, “the students who read on paper learned the study material more thoroughly more quickly; they did not have to spend a lot of time searching their minds for information from the text, trying to trigger the right memory—they often just knew the answers”.

While technology does help education in some ways, it is very important to be aware of the possible consequences and implications that also come with these technologies. It is especially critical to be weary of how these technologies, like having iPads in classrooms, might hinder the learning development of young children. Is it ethical to be putting children in positions that might compromise their ability to learn? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Freedom of Food Choice

Cities have judicial courts and regulations for many reasons, but many would argue that protecting individuals’ freedom of choice is one of the most important jobs of these ruling bodies. In late June, the local court in New York City voted not to reinstate a ban on “big soda;” a regulation implemented by the Board of Health in March 2013 limiting the size of sugary beverages that could be sold by NYC businesses. The Board of Health justified its actions through the fact that “sugary drink consumption is a key driver of the obesity epidemic,” but Judge Piggott’s court ruled that the Portion Cap Rule did not benefit from legislative guidance and was beyond the board’s regulatory authority.

Continue reading “Freedom of Food Choice”

Domestic Violence in Athletics: An Epidemic?

The NFL is not the only professional sporting league to be affected by the growing discussion of domestic violence. Hope Solo, the goal-keeper of the women’s professional soccer team, has been accused of two counts of domestic violence, according to Washington Post columnist Cindy Boren.  Solo continues to play without repercussions even while waiting for her November trial. This dichotomy between Solo’s media treatment and that of the NFL players brings up some ethical questions. Continue reading “Domestic Violence in Athletics: An Epidemic?”

Should We All Take a Bit of Lithium?

Lithium is classically associated with extreme mental illness, and has a somewhat negative connotation in the public. In its concentrated form, it has been documented to alleviate several symptoms of mental illness. But it also can (and has had) severe negative health consequences for people taking it in high doses.

But this op-ed raises the question: Should we all be taking (a very little) bit of Lithium? It turns out that it is naturally occurring, in very small amounts, in many drinking water sources. What is surprising is that there is some evidence that these small amounts potentially have a surprisingly positive effect. Several studies have shown correlations between levels of naturally occurring lithium and positive social outcomes.

Researchers began to ask whether low levels of lithium might correlate with poor behavioral outcomes in humans. In 1990, a study was published looking at 27 Texas counties with a variety of lithium levels in their water. The authors discovered that people whose water had the least amount of lithium had significantly greater levels of suicide, homicide and rape than the people whose water had the higher levels of lithium. The group whose water had the highest lithium level had nearly 40 percent fewer suicides than that with the lowest lithium level.

Almost 20 years later, a Japanese study that looked at 18 municipalities with more than a million inhabitants over a five-year period confirmed the earlier study’s finding: Suicide rates were inversely correlated with the lithium content in the local water supply.

More recently, there have been corroborating studies in Greece and Austria.

This raises several interesting questions. First, should the government and the scientific community be devoting more resources to studying the effects of lithium in these small doses? Second, suppose we found out that there are positive effects. Should we all be drinking water with these naturally occurring levels of lithium or not? Would you want your municipal water supply augmented to achieve this result? What do you think?

#YestoScotland or #NoThanks?

Today, Scotland has a monumental decision to make: stay a part of Great Britain or break away and become its own sovereign country. Since last winter, both the Scottish and British Parliament have discussed this historical referendum that would end a relationship spanning 307 years. Besides the idea that there could be a new country in less than 24 hours, the push for Scottish independence reveals a deep cleavage in Great Britain that I believe reflects a global divide. The Scottish people got tired of watching the privileged few in power make decisions that did not benefit them; but, instead of complaining about it, they acted. If Scotland, a relatively peaceful country, feels oppressed by its government, how many other people feel that way about their government? Problems with governments differ throughout the world but they all have roots in the idea that the people in power will deliver political goods. Will the Scottish referendum spark a push for independence or regime change in other European countries? Will we see a similar phenomenon like the Arab Spring but in Western countries, specifically Ireland and Wales?

Neil Irwin from the New York Times says, “Power is not a right; it is a responsibility” and I whole-heartedly agree. Since 2010, the British Parliament has been making decisions that do not align with Scottish views such as expanded welfare programs and green energy. Four years of political decisions spurred the referendum, which would give Scotland sovereignty, but what else would it give Scotland? Scotland would receive the burden of figuring out how to sustain an economy, for one, as well as the burden of untangling 307 years of shared history and identity. Has the reign of the political elites ended in Great Britain? Does this mean that Wales and Ireland will break away next? What does this mean for the pound or the military for that matter? What will businesses do–stay in Scotland or flee to England and vice versa? Is oil a stable enough commodity to build the Scottish economy off of? Will Great Britain leave the EU because of this? Irwin closes his piece saying, “And so the results will ripple through world capitals from Athens to Washington: People don’t think the way things are going is good enough, and votes are getting angry enough to want to do something about it”. But are things so bad for Scotland that they will risk the political insecurity of forming their own country?

Is Reddit Run By Angry Warlords?

Reddit is heralded as “The Front Page of the Internet”, but is now coming under increased scrutiny. T.C. Sottek writes.

As Reddit trips over itself trying to contain its stolen nude photo problem, CEO Yishan Wong finally addressed the controversy on Saturday by releasing a remarkably clueless manifesto. Reddit, he wrote, is “not just a company running a website where one can post links and discuss them, but the government of a new type of community.” So, then, what type of government is Reddit? It’s the kind any reasonable person would want to overthrow.

What’s the nude photo problem? During the celebrity nude photo leak, a redditor named “John”, created a sub-reddit to serve as a repository of these nude photos. Reddit refused to take the photos down in the name of Free Speech and not compelling virtuous behavior. When The Washington Post published information about the creator of the sub-reddit in a scathing expose , the redditor screamed privacy violation. Many redditors rallied to John’s defense. Which is why Sottek, says that Reddit’s Government is a failed state. It’s “a weak feudal system that’s actually run by a small group of angry warlords who use “free speech” as a weapon.”

The whole situation raises a host of interesting ethical issues.

  1. Is the value of free-speech so important that people should be entitled to post private, stolen images? (That seems to be the Reddit position)
  2. Did the Washington Post do something ethically wrong when they posted their piece criticizing John and divulging his personal information? (that’s something this article suggests)

Let us know what you think.




ZMapp: The Solution to Ebola?

The outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa has captivated the international community since it began in February 2014. Although Ebola has broken out before, this is the largest outbreak ever. It is suspected that over a thousand people have died, and many more continue to fall ill. Some of them have been American citizens. Two American aid workers, Dr. Kent Bradley and Nancy Writebol, have been cured, after treatment with an experimental Ebola treatment called ZMapp. After this news came out, many people began to wonder why the drug had not immediately been sent to Western Africa.

Continue reading “ZMapp: The Solution to Ebola?”

Racism Has No Business in Basketball

On Monday, September 8, 2014, Atlanta Hawks owner, Bruce Levenson, announced that he would be giving up his team after an investigation uncovered a racially charged email he had written in August 2012. After being confronted about the email, and fully admitting to his hurtful and racist comments, CNN reports that Levenson decided it would be best for his team and his family to give up his ownership of the Atlanta Hawks.

The racially charged email contained many upsetting comments regarding Levenson’s belief that the high percentage of black fans attending Atlanta Hawks games were leading to a slump in overall ticket sales. As reported by CNN, Levenson remarked that “due to 90% of the stadium bars being black, a high percentage of cheerleaders being black, and 70% of the fans being black…white fans and ticket holders are scared away from attending games.” Levenson goes on to make multiple racist suggestions for improving ticket sales. CNN quotes Levenson’s email which recommends changing the current stadium music from “hip-hop and gospel” to music that a “40 year old white man would recognize,” as well as making the half-time shooting contests and kiss cam “less black.”

As unacceptable as this email is as a whole, these racially charged and extremely hurtful statements bring forth a greater ethical problem – the systemic cycle of racism. Although our country prides itself on freedom, fairness and equality for all; racism still persists and plays a prominent role in today’s world. Even unconsciously, people create barriers based on skin color which lead to the spread of negative stereotypes that continue to haunt blacks in various areas of life. What troubles me further is that this hurtful email was not written by an outsider like a biased reporter or angry fan. This email was written by the team sponsor, the co-owner of an NBA team; a team that consists of hardworking, talented, and dedicated men who represent a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. If the leaders of organizations such as the NBA harbor racism, then what example are we modeling for the workforce and generations to come.

CNN reports that Levenson stated, “the NBA should have no tolerance for racism.” The league further shared that “Levenson is truly remorseful for using those hurtful words and apologetic to the entire NBA family—fans, players, team employees, business partners and fellow team owners.” While it is notable that Levenson has taken personal accountability for his actions by both admitting and apologizing for his hurtful email, it is troubling to think that his decision to “walk away” is in any way repairing the damage done. It seems to me that “walking away” is the easy fix. When issues arise over race, it seems that we are uncomfortable and unprepared to help drive positive change. Instead, we find quick fixes to quiet the uproar. The ethical issue is one of change leadership. How will we, as a country, lead the change required to eliminate racism from the fabric of our lives?

Would Knowledge of God Undermine Morality?

Helen De Cruz draws on some interesting insights from the cognitive science of religion to examine a popular response to an argument against God’s existence called The Problem of Divine Hiddenness.

The basic argument is that a loving God would make his/her presence obviously known to us. Why? Because a loving God would want a loving personal relationship with us, and that’s only possible if we are in a position to know with reasonable certainty that God exists.

One kind of response to this argument is that if God’s presence were obvious, it would undermine our ability to make morally significant choices, because we wouldn’t feel free to decide how to act. We’d feel compelled to always act in a particular way. Mike Murray endorses this kind of response (Shameless plug alert: So do some other philosophers)

De Cruz examines some recent work on the cognitive science of religion, and draws on it to consider whether the above line of response is a good one. It turns out that there is some evidence, but the results are rather mixed. If people believe in a vengeful God, and are reminded about God (or a primed with spiritual words) they are less likely to cheat or act immorally in various ways. However, this is not true if people’s beliefs about God emphasize a more loving and forgiving God. Her full post is an interesting read. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Would the obvious existence of a God make it difficult for you to freely choose how to act (and thus be unable to make morally significant choices), or would you still feel free to act?

The Politics of Morality: Can Good Deeds be Controlled?

From sharing posts on social media sites to spreading germs of the common cold, it seems that many things in life are contagious. But does this trend toward contagion apply to morality in the form of good deeds?

Innovations in technology have allowed us to track, research, and study human interactions in a way that seemed impossible a decade ago. And while researchers might enjoy newfound methods of quantifying human behaviors, it is important to question whether this type of inquiry into our daily lives is overreaching.

Continue reading “The Politics of Morality: Can Good Deeds be Controlled?”

Apocalypse Now: Hollywood and the End of the World

Few events are as captivating of the human imagination as the apocalypse. Whether seen in ancient religious texts or modern novels and video games, on some level it seems we’re all concerned with and captivated by how it’s all going to end. But when such a fascination begins to reflect real life, are there any ethical concerns to address?

Continue reading “Apocalypse Now: Hollywood and the End of the World”