On February 10, 2012, the Obama Administration announced that the preventive care benefits mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) would be interpreted to include contraception coverage. This decision proved controversial from the very beginning and elicited numerous legal objections. Many religious organizations and religious owners of businesses objected to the narrow scope of religious exemptions originally allowed in the mandate. Notably, the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 to expand the exemptions to the mandate to include closely held for-profit corporations with “sincerely held religious beliefs.” At issue in these legal challenges was whether the contraception mandate substantially burdened the free exercise of religion, as it is protected under the First Amendment to the US Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Michelle Jones wasn’t the only applicant to be rejected from Harvard University this year. However, hers is in many ways a special case. While she was initially accepted by the history department of Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, her acceptance was ultimately overturned by Harvard’s administration. This move was in connection to the most interesting part of her case: Ms. Jones was only released in August of this year from the Indiana Women’s Prison after serving 20 years of a 50-year sentence for homicide. Although the legal system considered her sentence to be served in full, Harvard University—an elite academic institution—considered her past conviction as grounds for rejection. What does this say about the notion of reform and rehabilitation in the United States?
For decades in the 20th century, the US, Canada, and Australia took thousands of indigenous children from their families and either put them in residential schools or found non-indigenous adoptive parents for them. These practices ended in the 1970s, but only now are governments in Canada and Australia trying to make amends. Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard apologized in 2013, while the government of Manitoba apologized for forced adoptions in 2015. At the beginning of this month, the Canadian government agreed to pay reparations to victims of the “Sixties Scoop”—the forced adoption of indigenous children in the 1960s and 70s. 750 million Canadian dollars will be paid out in legal settlements.
Secession has been a hot topic in 2017. At least two important plebiscites have been celebrated: Kurdistan and Catalonia. Predictably, both the governments of Iraq and Spain have strongly condemned them as illegal, respectively. Both governments are right: the laws of both Iraq and Spain do not allow for secession in the terms that the plebiscites propose it. But, then again, basically no country in the world (Ethiopia and Canada being notable exceptions) accepts the legality of secession. Yet, throughout history, secessions have happened multiple times. Technically, almost all of them have been illegal. Morally, some of them have been celebrated, some not. What, then, is the criterion to judge the morality of secession? What makes George Washington a hero, but Jefferson Davis a villain (if at all)?
In 2002, the Navajo Nation placed a moratorium on genetic research within its territorial jurisdiction. Among the motivations were concerns about the misuse of data and the potential for privacy violations. Many members of the Navajo Nation were opposed to the moratorium, primarily because of the medical benefits of genetic testing. This month, the Navajo Nation announced that they are considering lifting the moratorium.
“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America… there’s the United States of America.” These words were pronounced by Barack Obama in the 2004 Democratic Convention. A relatively obscure politician at the time, this speech proved to be momentous, as it struck a chord with American voters, and four years later, Obama was the first African American president elected in U.S. history.
When Tarana Burke served as a youth worker, she heard her “share of heartbreaking stories from broken homes to abusive or neglectful parents.” A little girl, Heaven, reached out to Burke to talk in private, relaying stories of “her mother’s boyfriend who was doing all sorts of monstrous things to her developing body.” Unable to handle the horror, Burke interrupted and directed the girl to a different counselor. Haunted by her response, Burked reflected, “as I cared about that child, I could not find the courage that she had found. I could not muster the energy to tell her that I understood, that I connected, that I could feel her pain.” Shocked and hurt by the rejection, Heaven walked away, and Burke remembers the moment: “I watched her put her mask back on and go back into the world like she was all alone and I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper…me too.”
As America grapples with another mass shooting, this time at a concert in Las Vegas, the arguments put forth by both sides have not exactly tread new ground. There have been some encouraging signs of progress, namely the growing consensus around a ban of the bump-fire stocks the shooter used to simulate automatic fire and kill 58 people. Yet much of the debate remains couched in appeals to public safety and evocations of constitutional rights, doing little to address the deep intractability that marks the gun control debate.
On October 12, when actress Rose McGowan tweeted about her sexual assault perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein, her Twitter account was shut down. McGowan’s tweets and accusations follow the accusations of several other women in Hollywood, who spoke out to various journalists.
By now, all of us have been touched in some way by the opioid epidemic in the United States. While there is ample medical science, social science, and political science to explain the phenomenon of addiction, our anecdotal personal experience shapes our ethical judgments. Is addiction a choice or a disease? If it is a disease, is it acquired because of voluntary behavior, or caused by biological or societal factors? Can addicts simply stop using drugs?
The labor of scientists has benefited society tremendously. Advancements in medicine and technology have improved both the length and the quality of human lives. Scientific studies have been and continue to be a crucial part of that process. Science, when done well, is indispensable to a healthy, happy, curious human race. Unfortunately, science isn’t always done well. When done poorly, studies can have disastrous effects. People tend to trust claims made by scientists, and that trust turns out to be unwarranted if something has gone wrong with the research.
In Kenya, a grand experiment in a radical approach to foreign aid and poverty alleviation is about to get underway. Instead of the predominant approach to foreign aid of providing in-kind donations to poor people (such as housing, food, and health care), the charity Give Directly plans to give money directly to poor people with no strings attached. The concept of a universal basic income (UBI) behind the charity’s experiment “is a specific type of cash transfer” that is “unconditional,” “universal,” “enough to cover basic needs,” and “guaranteed for a recipient’s lifetime.” Critics of UBI claim that recipients will waste the money they receive on things like alcohol, or will stop working because of the new income. Give Directly wants to test these claims to build evidence for UBI as a more efficient and effective approach to poverty alleviation.
On October 5, The New York Times released a report detailing various instances of sexual assault perpetrated by Hollywood director and executive, Harvey Weinstein, on many of his female colleagues. The allegations span over a period of 30 years, as Weinstein’s power in the film industry protected him from consequences. “Movies were his private leverage,” the report reads, as Weinstein often offered promotions and bonuses to his female colleagues in exchange for sexual acts, and silenced those who spoke out with payments that ranged between $80,000 and $150,000.
On October 1, a gunman opened fire on a country music festival in downtown Las Vegas. Almost immediately following news of the shooting, prominent politicians such as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tweeted pleas for stronger gun control. These tweets drew harsh criticism regarding the politicization of mass shootings. Such criticism appears in the wake of mass shootings, as people assess when it is too soon to start discussing gun control, and what can be done in the future to prevent such tragedies. Continue reading “Politics and Respect in the Wake of Mass Shootings”
In a Time Magazine opinion piece, “How to Fix American Stupidity,” the philosopher Steven Nadler laments what he sees as a creeping intellectual stubbornness afflicting American citizens and offers some ideas about how to cure it. He calls this cognitive pandemic stupidity. As evidence of our country’s stupidity, Nadler cites the growing denial of anthropogenic climate change, denigration of Islam, and repudiation of evolution by natural selection.
Last month I made my first visit to Australia and was continually struck by the how different the country is from the US. The scrubby outback, the bouncing marsupials, people saying “no worries” constantly—they all reminded me that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore (or in my home state of Texas). But there was also a difference in what was on the news. Australia’s marriage equality vote was a constant topic, which seemed peculiar; peculiar because the vote was taking place now, when same-sex marriage was legalized in the US two years ago, and peculiar also because of the role of voting. In the US, a Supreme Court decision established marriage equality in 2015.
Since the first atom bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, pop culture has imagined and re-imagined apocalyptic narratives. From the “atomic pop” that proliferated on the radio in the 1940s and 50s, to the 2008 and 2016 releases of post-apocalyptic video games Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, this recurring theme exemplifies how ingrained the apocalyptic narrative is in Western culture. However, a shift can be seen from apocalyptic fears in the years after the bomb, to the post-apocalyptic heroic narratives told today in video games like Fallout. Although the apocalypse was once seen as the ultimate end, post-apocalyptic narratives make room for life afterwards, a life inherently fraught with ethical dilemmas about how to rebuild society. Where did apocalyptic narratives shift from ultimate annihilation to a heroic narrative about rebuilding society, and how does Fallout provide a moral compass for navigating the post-apocalypse?
The “drinking culture” on DePauw’s campus is one of both worry and intrigue, for it has caused more concern for the safety of DePauw students. But it has also pushed DePauw to react in attempts of curbing this “drinking culture.” The amount of hospitalizations due to alcohol related incidents has skyrocketed to 13 students since the 2017-2018 school year has started and in response to this, DePauw is cracking down — hard. Effective immediately, there will be harsh consequences for students under the drinking age that are caught with hard liquor. Is DePauw being too harsh here? Or is cracking down on DePauw students completely justified?
At an Alabama rally on September 22, President Donald Trump criticized the NFL and NFL team owners for not taking harsher action against players who protest during the playing of the national anthem at games. He is quoted referring to players who protest as “sons of bitches,” and claimed NFL owners should fire them for protesting. Trump also called out NFL fans, adding that if they would “leave the stadium” in the event of a protest, then “things would stop.”
There is no debate about the mistreatment of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar. However, there is an ongoing struggle to figure out when the international community should step in. It is important to know who are the Rohingya people, and why the stories about this group are becoming primetime news. Continue reading “In Myanmar, A Failed Test for the International Community”
Last month, according to the Los Angeles Times, a court ordered Johnson & Johnson, purveyor of several household health and beauty products, to pay $417 million in damages to Eva Echeverria, a 63-year-old Los Angeles resident who claims the company failed to warn her and other consumers about the cancer risk of their talc-based products, such as their baby powder.
Since May 2011, around 5.1 million people have fled Syria and the Assad regime. Additionally, another 6.1 million people reside as internally displaced peoples (IDPs) within Syria. Because of this, many of the surrounding countries have fronted many of the refugees, including 3 million in Turkey, 1 million in Lebanon, and another 660,000 in Jordan. What are the moral complexities surrounding these nations and what responsibility does the rest of the international community have in this crisis? Continue reading “The Moral Complexities of Helping Refugees”