All American: Political violence is at home in the United States

All American: Political violence is at home in the United States

 

OPINION

All American: Political violence is at home in the United States

2020 storming of the US capitol
olivia moore

28th February 2021

 

As democracy in the United States has been pushed to breaking point, demonstrated by January’s insurrection at the Capitol and the ensuing attempted impeachment of Donald Trump, political pundits and journalists have taken to comparing the scenes in the Capitol to the “middle east” or naming specific locations such as Syria, Baghdad and Kabul. These comparisons again appeared in the media in light of the recent crisis in Texas, where scenes of people queuing for access to clean water were described as those akin to a “third-world country”.

 

Such a quote arose during the Capitol insurrection, when Senator Marco Rubio tweeted “this is 3rd world style anti-American anarchy”, while CNN’s Jake Tapper simply likened the scenes to Bogota. ABC anchor Martha Raddaz reported: “It is so horrible to know, we are in America where this is happening, on Capitol Hill. I’m not in Baghdad. I’m not in Kabul. I’m not in a dangerous situation overseas. We are in America.” Not only is terminology like “third world” generalised and outdated, these comparisons are also ahistorical and simply false. This rhetoric promotes the negative stereotype that countries outside the US, typically countries in Central or South America, the Middle East, or Africa, are being unfairly referenced as chaotic and war-ridden. Many expressed disgust when Donald Trump referenced “shithole countries” during his presidency; and yet the media and politicians are simply continuing this ignorant discourse in a more covert manner.

 

These comparisons also deflect attention away from the fact that this political violence is, in reality, distinctly American. Allowing this rhetoric to permeate cable news and political discourse contributes to an “othering” of political violence as “something that happens in those countries over there”, but not in the US. In fact, this kind of violence is intrinsically linked to American history. Historically, the United States is a settler colonial state, created by the displacement and death of Native Americans, and built on the back of slave labour. The white supremacist Charlottesville demonstration, recent Proud Boys rallies and the El Paso terror attack are just a handful of examples that reveal that this violence is still a feature of contemporary American society. It is unsurprising that the trajectory that began with the Trail of Tears and continued through Jim Crow and public lynchings has led the US to a place of white supremacist uprisings. The storming of the Capitol was a culmination of this history of political violence and the escalation that has occurred under the Trump administration. The inability of the media to recognise this leads to an inability to fully understand it.

 

“It is unsurprising that the trajectory that began with the Trail of Tears and continued through Jim Crow and public lynchings has led the US to a place of white supremacist uprisings.”

 

Political violence is also an important element of US foreign policy, most notably in the form of the “war on terror”. This policy has also been invoked through CIA backed coups. Between 1947 and 1989, the US attempted to overthrow governments of other countries a total of 72 times. Studies have shown that when a government is toppled it often leads to civil war and domestic instability. Political violence is homegrown in the US and exported to other countries in the name of “democracy”.

 

In the past few weeks, this rhetoric has again appeared in discussions surrounding the crisis in Texas. ABC anchor Erica Simon tweeted a video of people queuing to fill up buckets of clean water from a public spigot with the caption “This is not a third world country. This is Houston, Texas.” In this case, residents have been failed by deregulated privatised power grids that have not been weather proofed and a lack of government support and preparation. The Texas grid system is run by corporations and isolated from other states. This is distinctly American – both in its capitalist nature and its stubborn individualism. More generally, the catastrophic weather is almost inevitably a result of climate change; something many US politicians still deny as being a real threat to humanity.

 

It is curious that the media often reach for far away defective comparisons when presented with scenes of political violence, instead of referencing its long history in the US. The myth of American exceptionalism has deluded many into a sort of cognitive dissonance. These analogies are not just offensive; they are a betrayal of US history. In order for American to truly come to terms with its past and move toward a better future, it needs to forget the idea of exceptionalism and face reality.

 

 

Featured Photo by TheTapForwardAssist on Wikipedia Commons

 

COVID-19 Vaccines – What you need to know

COVID-19 Vaccines – What you need to know

 

OPINION

COVID-19 Vaccines – What you need to know

vaccination vile
olivia moore

27th February 2021

 

The past year has sparked doubt and uncertainty in all areas of our lives. While news of a vaccine has made us hopeful, it is understandable to be apprehensive about what this means. Since the outbreak, scientists have been working to find a vaccine which will help to prevent the spread of coronavirus. There are currently 64 vaccines in clinical development and another 174 in preclinical development. At present, there are three vaccines approved for the use in the EU: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca.

 

Pfizer/BioNtech

Pfizer and BioNTech created the breakthrough vaccine, which was granted approval by the EMA (European Medicines Agency) in December of 2020. Pfizer/BioNtech use mRNA technology in their vaccine by using the virus which causes COVID-19, SARS-Co-2. This has a unique physical structure that is used to prime an immune response. Although mRNA technology has been used in many different forms over the years, this is the first time it is being used for a vaccine.

 

The Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine is delivered in two doses within 21-28 days apart with 95% efficiency and until recently had to be kept below minus 60 degrees which made the roll out difficult. The recent development that this vaccine no longer requires extreme cold temperatures when storing means that it is now “even easier to transport and use”. Ireland expects to receive 5.4 million units of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine by the end of 2021. Side effects are said to be mild for this vaccine, comprising only pain and swelling at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle and joint pain, chills, and fever.

 

Moderna

Moderna’s vaccine to combat COVID-19 was approved by the EMA on January 6th and like the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine uses mRNA technology. It requires two doses 28 days apart – and the efficiency of this stands at 94.1%. Moderna’s vaccine also needs to keep at low temperatures. Side effects that have been reported from Moderna’s vaccine are pain and swelling at the injection site, tiredness, chills, fever, swollen or tender lymph nodes under the arm, headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea, and vomiting. Although these side effects were reported to be common, they were mostly mild to moderate. Ireland is expected to receive 870,000 doses by the end of 2021.

 

“At present, there are three vaccines approved for the use in the EU: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca.”

 

AstraZeneca

The most recent vaccine to be approved on the 29th of January by the EMA, which has begun to be distributed in Ireland, is AstraZeneca in collaboration with Oxford University. This vaccine is made up of another virus that has been modified to contain the gene for making a protein from SARS-Co-2. This technology has been used for many vaccines, including Zika and the flu. It also requires two doses 28 days apart. Side effects after this vaccine were reported to be similar as the others. The effectiveness of this vaccine according to AstraZeneca is around 76 to 82%, but the EMA has deemed it 60% effective because of results showing that 64 out of 5,200 who received it in the trail went on to develop symptomatic COVID 19 infections. This vaccine stands out among the others because it does not need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, but can be transported and stored between 2 and 8 degrees for up to six months. The AstraZeneca vaccine is also considerably cheaper starting at $3 – $4 per shot unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech, the prices of which begin at $20 per shot. In AstraZeneca’s clinical trials, there was a lack of data from over-65s; as a result of this, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Poland, and Belgium have chosen not to approve it for their older population. Ireland has decided to use the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine for over-70s which has resulted in major reorganisation of the roll out. Ireland should have received 190,000 doses of AstraZeneca in February and another 95,000 in early March.

 

The EU has expressed their frustration with the UK-based vaccine: while they had been expecting to receive 80 million doses by the end of March, they will only receive 31 million despite having already paid hundreds of millions of euros ahead of their approval to speed up production. AstraZeneca could be in breach of their contract with the EU for failing to provide the vaccines. Now the EU have purchase agreements with Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson and CureVac for use once approval is given. The COVID 19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy is a provisional list of priority groups that will be receiving the vaccine first as part of the state response to the pandemic. At the moment residents of long-term care, healthcare workers and people 85 and over are receiving their vaccines. Although we are a long way from being back to normal, these vaccines are vital to getting there.

  • To see how many vaccines have been administrated in Ireland visit COVID-19 Tracker App
  • Keep up to date with the developments of the vaccines on The Irish Times Vaccine Tracker.

 

 

Featured photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

 

The Special Criminal Court Review: A need for change?

The Special Criminal Court Review: A need for change?

 

BUSINESS + POLITICS

The Special Criminal Court Review: A need for change?

special criminal court dublin
olivia moore

26th February 2021

 

The Special Criminal Court has been in operation in Ireland since 1972. On the 16th of February, Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, announced a three-month review of the Special Criminal Court and all Offences Against the State Acts, which govern the court by an expert review group.

 

Article 38.3 of our constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, states that “special courts may be established by law for the trial of offences in cases where it may be determined in accordance with such law that the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice and the preservation of public peace and order.”

 

The Special Criminal Court was first established in 1939, mere days prior to Germany invading Poland, and remained in place for the duration of World War II, until 1946. The Special Criminal Court was again invoked in 1961 following attacks by the IRA in Northern Ireland but was promptly revoked in 1962 when the IRA ceased guerrilla warfare. The current court in operation today was invoked in 1972, to ensure justice amidst the paramilitary activity of the Troubles.

 

In 2016, Sinn Féin claimed that they would abolish the court, once in government, as part of their election campaign, while on the other hand Fianna Fáil have long acclaimed the Special Criminal Court. These parties’ opposing views on the matter beg the question, why is the court considered so controversial?

 

The root of the issue centres around the terminology used in Article 38.3, the Special Criminal Court should only be in existence when the “ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice, and the preservation of public peace and order.” Section 35 (4) of the Offences Against the State Act 1939 provides that “if at any time…the Government is satisfied that the ordinary courts are adequate to secure the effective administration of justice and the preservation of public peace and order, the Government shall make and publish a proclamation declaring that [the Special Criminal Court] shall cease to be in force.”

 

Despite the fact that the court ought only be functioning when the ordinary courts are inadequate in securing justice, the court has now been in existence for 48 years, and a second court was established in 2016 to deal with the backlog of gangland cases.

 

The 1939 Act imposes a duty on the Oireachtas to not only monitor the scheduled offences that may be tried before the Special Criminal Court, but also the adequacy of ordinary courts in facilitating the administration of justice. It is most concerning that the last official review occurred almost twenty years ago, in 2002. Former Irish president, Mary Robinson, has noted that the lack of monitoring has led to an impression amongst the general public that the “Special Criminal Court is part of the ordinary administration of justice and has become a permanent figure in the judicial structure.”

 

“there is limited right to appeal and only a minute number of barristers regularly appear before, and are familiar with the court, which limits the options of those in custody.”

 

Criminologists Kilcommins and Vaughan have explored the results of the 2002 review. Whilst the court has shown that it successfully combats organised crime, questions may be raised regarding the State’s commitment to constitutional rights. The importance of a trial by jury is vested in Article 38.5 of Bunreacht na hÉireann, “save in the case of the trial of offences under section 2, section 3 or section 4 of this Article, no person shall be tried on any criminal charge without a jury.” Though it is permissible for offences classified as scheduled offences under the 1939 Act to be tried in the juryless Special Criminal Court without conflicting with our constitution, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has great discretion that can potentially be regarded as conflicting with the constitution. The DPP has the discretion to choose which cases may be heard in the court under sections 46 and 47 of the 1939 Act.

 

Previous defendants have chosen to appeal to international bodies such as the United Nations due to their alleged denial of their right to trial by jury and thus the right to equality before the law (article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). In Kavanagh v Ireland, the Human Rights Committee “consider[ed] that the State party has failed to demonstrate that the decision to try the author before the Special Criminal Court was based upon reasonable and objective grounds. Accordingly, the Committee conclude[d] that the author’s right under article 26 to equality before the law and to the equal protection of the law has been violated.” Furthermore, Mary Robinson has highlighted the absence of safeguards available to those on trial in the Special Criminal Court, there is limited right to appeal and only a minute number of barristers regularly appear before, and are familiar with the court, which limits the options of those in custody.

 

On the other hand, the Special Criminal Court is favourably regarded as producing fairer, more correct results as jury intimidation is eradicated.

 

The expert review group is set to analyse all advantages and disadvantages of the Special Criminal Court’s continued operation, but as of now, the question remains, are the ordinary courts still inadequate in ensuring justice or is there a need for change?

 

 

Featured Photo by DubhEire on Wikipedia Commons

 

The UN Environment Programme’s Young Champions of the Earth 2020

The UN Environment Programme’s Young Champions of the Earth 2020

 

ENVIRONMENT

The UN Environment Programme’s Young Champions of the Earth 2020

a girl at a UN meeting with a laptop sticker that says 'youth power'
olivia moore

25th February 2021

 

The United Nations Environment Programme has recently announced their Young Champions of the Earth winners for 2020. There are seven amazing individuals recognised as environmental innovators in their local communities.

 

The first winner, Fatemah “Fatima” Alzelzela is a 24-year-old female electrical engineer from Kuwait. She is the founder of the Eco-Star project, which she launched in her last year of studies. Although Kuwait holds the title of one of the richest countries in the world, it, unfortunately, does not have the best environmental health. They don’t have an efficient waste system. Recycling is not utilised as 90% of waste goes to one of the eighteen landfills. This means only 10% is reused to encourage a more sustainable, less wasteful living environment. Kuwait also suffers from air pollution and currently offers limited functioning green areas. Eco-Star has attempted to combat this by assembling a team focused on the collection of recyclable materials and liaising with recycling factories. Eco-Star works with agricultural companies, in exchange for waste, they give plants and trees to individuals and organisations in Kuwait. Eco-Star has covered a huge amount of more than two-thousand waste-receiving operations like schools, companies and restaurants. This project sounds absolutely amazing as it has focused on changing the mindset surrounding waste. Instead of looking at waste negatively, Eco-Star is changing the view of recyclable waste as a resource to be saved and utilised.

 

The next winner, Lefteris Arapakis, is a 26-year-old Greek Entrepreneur, a co-founder of Enaleia. The fishing sector is personal for Lefteris as he belongs to a five-generation family of fishermen. Through Enaleia, a school for professional fishing has been created. Mediterranean fishermen have commonly experienced getting plastic in their nets instead of fish. Through the professional fishing schools, a plastic clean-up of the sea has been introduced, encouraging new and old fishermen to participate as it lets the declining fish stocks to recover and increase. The fishermen also receive an income from their plastic they haul in instead of fish. The Mediterranean CleanUp has also cleverly benefited from the collected marine waste, by working with companies to make eco-friendly products like t-shirts and socks. Currently, they remove more than 1.5 tonnes of plastic each week, that is the weight of a Great White Shark and a half.

 

The third winner, Max Hidalgo Quinto is a 30-year-old scientist from Peru. Water is essential for human survival as our body is made up of 60% water. Max has created YAWA, a portable, sustainable technology which has the capacity of getting up to three-hundred litres of water every day from humidity and mist in the air. This is an innovative way of providing access to drinking water in areas that may not have clean water and providing alternative water to use for agriculture purposes. YAWA will be a valuable resource for the future as it is expected that thirty-three countries will have water shortages in 2040, which is only nineteen years away.

 

The fourth winner, Niria Alicia Garcia is a 28-year-old indigenous environmental activist from America. She is studying for a Masters in Human Rights at Columbia University. Run4Salmon is a conservation project that has been led by indigenous people for the past four years. Indigenous people make up less than 5% of the global population however they are responsible for over 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Climate change has posed a risk for many species of extinction, specifically the endangered Chinook salmon that make a 300-mile journey (five hours in a car!) along California. This project strives to create campaigns, advocate and deliver an educational programme on indigenous people. Run4Salmon has spoken to government officials, lawyers and members of the public. Currently, they are working on a virtual reality tour for people to access online.

 

“YAWA will be a valuable resource for the future as it is expected that thirty-three countries will have water shortages in 2040, which is only nineteen years away.”

 

The fifth winner, Nzambi Matee is a 29-year-old engineer from Kenya. He has created Gjenge Makers whose mission is to build a greener, more sustainable Kenya. Kenya has a huge housing problem, which is tackled through Gjenge Makers activity of converting plastic waste (bottle tops and seals) and sand into cheaper building materials. They have partnered with plastic manufacturers in the beverage and pharmaceutical industries to collect scraps. They have created an income for over one-hundred-and-twelve people, the majority of which being women and youth groups who are involved in the production process. The alternative building materials that are produced have been successful and are received very positively in Kenya. Currently, they have a higher demand than they can produce as the main challenge of theirs is increasing their production quantity. Gjenge Makers has been responsible for recycling nearly 500 kg of plastic waste a day and produce about five-hundred to one-thousand bricks per day!

 

The sixth winner, Vidyut Mohan is a 29-year-old Indian entrepreneur. Takachar, has focused their efforts on increasing the level of waste that is converted into products. The social enterprise has allowed farmers to earn an extra income through their crop residue, up to 40% more! Through the prevention of burning their waste, Takachar’s work also reduces air pollution. By 2030, 300 million farmers will be impacted and Takachar will create $4 billion a year of extra income and jobs for local people. Takachar will also mitigate one gigaton a year of carbon dioxide, CO2, which is equal to 1,000,000,000,000 kilograms.

 

The seventh winner, last but not least, Xiaoyuan Ren, is a 29-year-old Chinese environmental engineer. She has founded MyH2O, a data platform for clean water in China. Shockingly, over 300 million people in rural China still do not have regular access to clean drinking water. Lack of information has made this issue hard to tackle, as clean water providers don’t know where their services are needed most. MyH2O Water Information Network, addresses this problem by collecting clean water data and aiming to connect water resources with rural communities. MyH20 has grown its network to over one-hundred field teams covering over three-thousand-eight-hundred datasets in nearly one-thousand villages across twenty-six provinces in China. They have successfully provided clean water stations in rural villages to tens of thousands of villagers!

 

 

Featured Photo by United Nations Photo on Flickr

 

The role of influencers amid the COVID-19 lockdown

The role of influencers amid the COVID-19 lockdown

 

OPINION

The role of influencers amid the COVID-19 lockdown 

a selfie stick
Elizabeth Quinn

24th February 2021

 

There are many unknowns surrounding the extent of damage caused by COVID-19 lockdowns globally, such as the mortality rate or the lack of output and fall in economic growth. COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, severe effects on the physical health of its victims, but it can almost be guaranteed that the hardships – financially, physically, mentally – have hit everyone in all walks of life. National, and even global, solidarity is vital to the slowing down of the virus. People are limiting movements and working from home all for the sake of their loved ones. Our lifestyles have been totally flipped, as we now appreciate the little things that we take for granted in normal times.

 

Some people have, however, been using this time in lockdown for more selfish endeavours. Celebrities and influencers have been seen ignoring government guidelines and restrictions, and have taken advantage of the diligence and obedience of the masses in order to go to parties and jet-set across the world. Some influencers have been seen to use their position of influence to abuse lockdown rules and pursue their own self gain.

 

The level of unnecessary extravagance and general tone deafness amongst the influencer community reached new extremes during these last few months. The worst of these, in my opinion, would have to be Kim Kardashian-West. Kardashian-West posted a series of tweets in late October 2020, exhibiting her vast wealth and total disregard for the rules by flying dozens of her friends and family to a private island to celebrate her 40th birthday party. Although ensuring that all the attendants quarantined and partook in numerous health screenings for the fortnight leading up to the trip, Kim quickly upset her audience in the latter half of her thread of tweets. Kim stated that her trip was a chance for her and her family to

“pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time.” 

This supposed normality includes dancing, swimming with whales, watching movies on the beach and kayaking. None of this is not an aspect of “normal” for the majority of people, and is almost an unattainable dream for the average person.

 

Many Youtube and TikTok influencers, who have a largely teenage and pre-teen following, have also come under fire in recent months for their attendance at various gatherings and their indifference towards social distancing. In late July, social media influencers flocked to the Hype House, a mansion in LA which is home to a number of TikTok stars. This event sparked a series of large gatherings in the Sway House – another TikToker house – and in Youtuber Jake Paul’s mansion, to name but a few.

 

Youtuber kodeerants pointed out the insincerity of their apologies – if these influencers even apologise for their actions –

“They apologize, not because they mean it, but only to get people to stop talking about them … If they truly were sorry they would stop going to social events and stay home like the rest of us.”

She also points out the bad example they are setting for their impressionable followers saying that

“These influencers are responsible for being role models for their audiences and all they are doing is showing them that you can do anything you want and you don’t have to care about other people.”

 

Other celebrities and influencers have been taking it a step further, and disregarding international travel guidelines by vacationing to all corners of the world. Reality TV stars, such as those on Love Island, have been criticised for travelling to Dubai since lockdowns began. Most recently, Amber Rose Gill, winner of the fifth season of Love Island, has been condemned for traveling to Dubai just days after more restrictions were put into place in the UK. She further fanned the flame by posting on her Instagram story, saying that she had no idea what Tier 4 meant:

 

 

Love Island star Laura Anderson was also highly criticised after travelling to Dubai. Anderson went to Instagram to address the backlash regarding her trip to Dubai, insisting that the trip was work-related only. She then explained that the work of an influencer is “hard”, and that it is not as appealing as it seems. Fans noticed that the sun-kissed glamour of her Instagram feed says otherwise, and Anderson quickly began to lose followers at an alarming rate. Other Love Island stars experienced similar losses in followings, including Anton Danyluk and Kaz Crossley. According to The Sun, the trio had lost a cumulative total of 33,000 followers, and that number continues to grow.

 

This loss of following was in part prompted by fellow Love Island star Olivia Atwood. Atwood was commended by her fans, and criticised fellow influencers travelling for work amid restrictions. Posting on her Instagram story, she insisted that she is working more than ever, now that she is working from home, and she encouraged her fans to hit them where it hurts, and unfollow these influencers. She said:

“The way to hurt people is silence because actually, when you are commenting on someone’s photo, even if it’s a bad negative comment, you’re still drumming up interaction on that post.”

She then went on to explain that by engaging with posts, although the comments may be negative, the influencer’s engagement remains high, and they will then continue to book high-paying jobs. Atwood also explained that the bad weather in Manchester, her home town, has made it very difficult for her to create content. Although influencers like Atwood should not be praised for doing the bare minimum by advocating for people to follow public health advice and government-imposed lockdowns, they are more deserving of a platform than some of their peers.

 

One ex-Love Island star that deserves huge commendations is Alex George, known as Dr Alex. Since the initial lockdown in March, George has been working on the front line in an A&E in London, and has recently began training to become a GP. As a social media influencer, he has seen first-hand the impact of the lockdown on mental health, especially in teenagers and young adults. The loss of his 19-year-old brother, Llŷr, to suicide in July, lit a fire inside of George, and inspired him to use his platform to advocate for the improvement of mental health services. Speaking on the death, George said:

“That was a real trigger that made me realise I wanted to push this and take it as far as I could.”

Following the loss, George spent the following number of months researching the extent of the issues faced by young people today, speaking to numerous experts, teachers, and students themselves. On January 1st of this year, George took to Twitter with an open letter to UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Due to his incredible advocacy for mental health, as well as his heroic work in the hospitals, George was recently appointed as the Youth Mental Health Ambassador.

 

Now, more than ever, influencers are hugely inspirational and aspirational to adolescents and young adults. As the spotlight shines so brightly on these social media influencers, we as followers are given the opportunity to see their true values, their respect for the rules, and the respect they have for the countless lives that have been lost since March. I hope that, as an online community, we begin to hold these influencers accountable for their action, and lessen their influence over us, especially in cases where they use their position of authority to their own advantage.

 

 

Featured photo by Steve Gale on Unsplash