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: Human Rights

US Imposes Sanctions on Iran’s Police Chief, Government Entities (June 9, Voice of America) Two years ago this month, Iranian authorities violently cracked down on protests in the wake of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election victory.  On Thursday, the United States imposed sanctions against three government entities and one individual for their connections to human rights abuses in Iran.

University names Thompson to post, sparks ethics debate  (June 9, Kathryn Ingall) Human rights groups are calling the University to reconsider the hiring of a law professor involved in the deportation and torture of a Canadian citizen in Syria. “I don’t think someone who conspired in torture should be teaching law students,” said Maria LaHood, a senior attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Born Free: A Response (June 7, New York Times) I am glad that my article, “Are There Natural Human Rights?” prompted nearly 300 responses. Though a few playfully sang the tune of Mollière and Aristophanes concerning the utility of philosophers in the public square, most took the claims made in the article seriously and offered comments, suggestions and critiques. I would like to briefly respond to four groups of comments: (a) questions about God, (b) the role of science, (c) Confucius, and (d) operative rights.

Obama Urges Bahrain Hold Rights Abusers Accountable (June 7, MSNBC) President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Bahrain’s rulers to hold accountable those responsible for human rights abuses in a crackdown on pro-democracy protests and pressed for compromise between the government and the opposition. … Critics have said the United States and other Western nations reacted too softly to the crackdown in Bahrain, which is seen as a vital U.S. ally facing Iran.

A New Way to Measure Human Rights may Revolutionalize Global Advocacy (June 6, Christian Science Monitor) A small group of scholars based at The New School in New York City and the University of Connecticut, with support from the Social Science Research Council, have created what they hope will be a more rigorous and globally applicable human rights index that focuses on social and economic rights, called the SERF index. The Economic and Social Rights Empowerment Initiative launched the index on May 13, in a public panel at New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge.

The Human Right to Medical Attention And Lady Gaga  (June 6, Death and Taxes) Basically, we’re looking a load of human rights violations in both cases. That’s according to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Obviously Lady Gaga being censored takes a distant second place in terms of significance to the charges and imprisonment of the medical personnel in Bahrain. The world can get by without shitty pop music but someone’s got to set all the broken bones and stitch up the bullet wounds of all these protestors fighting for the most basic of human dignities.

U.N. Report Declares Internet Access a Fundamental Right. (Wired, June 3) While blocking and filtering measures deny users access to specific content on the Internet, states have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely. The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from internet access, regardless of the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Human Rights Group Slams Facebook Over China Strategy (PC Mag, June 3) Human Rights Watch on Friday demanded that Facebook craft specific human rights safeguards before entering the Chinese market after an executive said recently that the social-networking site might allow “too much … free speech” for some governments to handle.

Feminism by Treaty: Why CEDAW is Still a Bad Idea. (American Enterprise Institute, June 1) The Obama State Department has notified the Senate that ratification of CEDAW is its top priority among the many human-rights treaties the United States is considering. The prospects remained good even after the November 2010 elections. It is the Democratic Senate, not the newly Republican House, which provides advice and consent to treaties. In any event, the treaty has enjoyed Republican support in the past and will again.

National Security Nominees Oppose Torture (June 1, 2011, Human Rights First): Human Rights First welcomes the nominations of national security leaders who firmly oppose torture.

A New Way to Measure Human Rights (June 1, 2011, Dowser): But the task of protecting and improving human rights faces numerous challenges: the problem of using standardized indexes to measure rights in highly heterogeneous cultural and national contexts is one.

Human Rights Is Much Bigger Than CSR (June 1, 2011, Triple Pundit):Human Rights has a much longer history than CSR. For one thing, it has a global framework that is universally agreed upon. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948 after the Nazi genocide drove the international community to articulate a set of inalienable rights and freedoms.

Why Security Keeps Winning Out Over Privacy (May 31, 2011, Salon): Far too often, debates about privacy and security begin with privacy proponents pointing to invasive government surveillance, such as GPS tracking, the National Security Agency surveillance program, data mining, and public video camera systems.

UN expert presents global standards for human rights in business world (UN, May 31) A United Nations human rights expert today unveiled a series of global benchmarks aimed at helping businesses and governments to act ethically and protect human rights.

Universal Truths: Human Rights and the Westernizing Illusion (May 30, Salon) Is the concept of human rights universal or is it relative to distinct cultures? If it is relative, then when the West “liberates” what it sees as an oppressed nation and provides its people with more individual rights, is such liberation an imposition?

US team in NKorea to talk food aid, human rights (Laramie Boomerang, May 30, 2011): A U.S. government team was in North Korea on a rare trip Tuesday to assess food shortages, while the country’s reclusive leader Kim Jong Il reportedly traveled to an eastern Chinese city to study Beijing’s economic reforms.

Are There Natural Human Rights? (New York Times, May 29, 2011): This has been a year of uprisings. The series of popular revolts, struggles and crackdowns by governments, which continue to this day, began in Tunisia when protesters demanded the removal of president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. The claims of the protesters were about the right to eat (the cost of food), political corruption, freedom of speech and basic political rights.

South African President Urged to Focus on Human Rights in Libya (VOA News, May 29, 2011): An official of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch [HRW] says South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma should make human rights issues an important part of his agenda as he meets embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Monday.

Obama on Bahrain (Voice of America, May 28) Bahrain is a longstanding partner, and the United States is committed to its security. … Nevertheless, said President Obama, “We have insisted both publicly and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and such steps will not make legitimate calls for reform go away.


Are There Natural Human Rights?
(New York Times, May 28, 2011): Michael Boylan discusses the question of natural human rights in the wake of the Arab Spring.


Human Rights, Credibility and Accountability
 (The Daily Mirror, May 27, 2011): The decision of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka to have veteran members of the higher judiciary to probe specific cases of violations in the war-ravaged North-East may have been an after-thought on the Government’s part. It may have even come a day too late in the context of the Darusman Report. If taken to the logical conclusion it can still provide a basis for Colombo to address the genuine and not-so-genuine concerns of the international community on this score.

US Ambassador Says China Must Do More on N. Korea, Human Rights (Voice of America, May 27, 2011) The Commerce Secretary said, while there are areas of collaboration, there are areas of what he called “vigorous disagreement,” including human rights where, he said, the United States has significant concerns about Beijing’s recent actions. “Especially the crackdown on journalists, lawyers, bloggers, artists and religious groups. The protection and promotion of liberty and freedom are fundamental tenets of U.S. foreign policy and, if confirmed, I will clearly and firmly advocate for upholding universal rights in China,” Locke said.

The politics of human rights in Ivory Coast

Human Rights Commissioner criticises Australia (Lateline, May 25, 2011): The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights has described Australia’s detention policy for refugees as racist.

Canada must tend to its own hemisphere (The Globe and Mail, May 24, 2011): John Baird, the new Foreign Affairs Minister, should be encouraged to deepen Canada’s engagement with the hemisphere by supporting and expanding the government’s Americas Strategy. The region is important for reasons that resonate with both our national interest and our shared values.

The U.S. Pressures Iran on Human Rights (Memarian, May 20) Many may be critical of America’s human rights policies, particularly its double standards when it comes to the records of its allies in the Middle East and beyond, not to mention in Bahrain. But human rights activists and organizations have welcomed the Obama administration’s presence at the Human Rights Council in Geneva since 2009. Like it or not, “without a strong U.S. counterweight, non-democratic states such as Cuba, Algeria, China and Pakistan joined forces to blunt the Council’s work and bully other states.”

Rights Defender Deemed ‘Contrary to National Interest’ (IPS, May 18, 2011): Kenya often lashes out at human rights workers, leading to international backlash. This time, they said the worker was harming “national interest.”

No plans to cut ties with Libya (May 17, 2011): Bangladesh has no intention to sever its ties with Libya, a North African nation wrecked by a civil war between Nato-backed insurgents and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

Human rights leader encourages President Obama to redefine Middle East strategy in speech (May 17, 2011): In anticipation of Thursday’s speech on U.S. policy in the Middle East, Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of Human Rights First, addressed a letter to President Obama urging him to use this speech as an opportunity to lay out an assertive foreign policy that focuses on protecting human rights while bringing democratic change to the region.

Report alleged torture, calls for Obama, U.S. leaders to help (May 17, 2011): More than 800 people have been arrested in the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain since mid-February. Most of the detainees have been Shiite Muslims who protested against the Sunni monarchy of King Hamed ibn Isa Khalifa.

Obama’s strategy in the Middle East and Africa (May 17, 2011): On Thursday, President Obama makes a major address on the uprisings sweeping the Middle East and North Africa and what those events mean for the U.S. His comments will likely be compared to his speech in Cairo in June 2009, where he went to “seek a new beginning” in the region and the Muslim world.

Ghana: Forced evictions dent country’s image (May 16, 2011): In spite of Ghana’s democratic credentials and respect for human rights on the African continent, the 2011 State of the World’s Human Rights report catalogued a number of worrying abuses of the rights of the citizens of this country

The return of the torture debate (May 16, 2011): In the two weeks after Osama bin Laden was killed, veterans of the Bush administration have revived an argument about the efficacy of the techniques approved by Bush and banned by Obama. The debate is almost as old as the war on terror, but the new phase of it began on January 22, 2009, when Obama signed an executive order prohibiting any interrogation techniques not in the army field manual.

Kenya: Human rights investigator deported (May 15, 2011): The deportation from Kenya of the human rights investigator Clara Gutteridge raises concerns about Kenya’s openness to scrutiny, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) and Human Rights Watch said.

China rejects Clinton’s human rights comments (May 13, 2011) China has rejected comments by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about its human rights record and says any attempts to direct the turmoil in the Middle East to China will fail.

: Free Trade

Free trade agreements would jumpstart jobs (The Daily Caller, May 25, 2011): Congress turns to trade this week, with two hearings on pending free trade agreements (FTAs). Discussion about the benefits of trade is always welcome, but the time for talk has passed. It is time for President Obama to send Congress the Colombia, Panama and South Korea FTAs for swift approval.

Protectionist pressures rising among G20 members, says new WTO report (ICTSD, May 25, 2011): Protectionist pressures are increasing in the world’s leading economies, as members of the Group of 20 introduced more trade-restricting policies over the past six months than in any comparable period since April 2009, according to a new report from the WTO.

Protectionism bites back – again (The Atlantic, May 24, 2011): Libertarians and economic nationalists should have something to agree on, if I read a Washington Post report correctly. The stupidity of present trade policy gives us the worst of both worlds, actually stimulating overseas competitors to expand their production globally while anesthetizing American manufacturers with “settlements,” making no economic or ethical sense.

When “free” trade trumps U.S. law (Salon, May 24, 2011): When it comes to “free” trade, Ralph Nader (among others) often makes a profound but taboo observation: “True free trade would take only one page for a trade agreement,” he says before typically asking, “How come there are hundreds of pages and thousands of regulations” in these pacts?

Protectionist insticts are rising (Financial Times, May 15, 2011): Unfurl the national flag, wave it about and make rude noises about foreigners. That seems to be the strategy employed by a large swathe of financial interests in Canada as they seek to stop the TMX Group from consummating an agreed merger with the London Stock Exchange.

Australia Welcomes Indias Decision to Negotiate Trade Deal (News One, May 3, 2011): Australia Tuesday welcomed the decision of the Indian government to start negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

America’s Free Trade Moment (Foreign Policy, April 19, 2011): Emerging from the most severe economic downturn in a generation, the United States has a choice: Do we continue to be a global beacon for open markets and economic advancement?

Trumping Trumka (Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2011): It only took five years, but the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement finally seems to be headed to Congress for a vote.

US Korea Free Trade Agreement to boost export and create thousands of jobs (All Headline News, April 19, 2011): The Free Trade Agreement between the United States and South Korea would not only help boost exports, but would create thousands of jobs in the country, a top Obama Administration trade official told lawmakers on Thursday.

Approve Korea free trade pact now, or risk losing out to the European Union (Sun Sentinel, April 18, 2011) The Sun Sentinel expresses their support of the free trade measures currently before Congress.

Analysis- France flirts with ‘Euro Protectionism’ (Reuters, April 18, 2011) France’s Socialists have just embraced a form of European trade protectionism in their manifesto, a shift from their previous endorsement of globalisation as a win-win proposition for French workers.

Japan, the forgotten protectionist threat (The Huffington Post, April 17, 2011) Everyone’s worried about China today on the trade front. And they should be. But let’s not forget that China is only the most brazen player of one-way free trade out there. We ran a $273 billion deficit with China in 2010, but we also ran an $80 billion deficit with the European Union and a $60 billion deficit with Japan.

The Benefits of a US – Columbia Free-Trade Deal (April 14, 2011) Economists estimate that the free-trade pact with Colombia, which received White House endorsement on Apr. 7 and awaits approval from Congress, could boost U.S. gross domestic product by $2.5 billion a year.

Keiser: Baucus vs. Free Trade (The Washington Times, April 12, 2011) At a Senate Finance Committee hearing March 31, Democratic chairman Max Baucus of Montana spoke of boosting U.S. exports to Asia.”In today’s world, we seek not to build, but to tear down the economic walls that divide us,” he said, in remarks about the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).

Free trade is crumbling, good thing too (San Francisco Chronicle, April 10, 2011) One thing is for certain already: global trade as we know it will not be here in 10 years. It may even be gone in five. The unsustainable U.S. trade deficit alone assures this

US seen calling off ‘timeout’ on new trade deals (Business World, March 28, 2011) A US “timeout” on new trade agreements rooted in the Democratic Party’s battle for the White House in 2008 appears to be nearly over as officials watch the European Union and others strike deals of their own.

Kan May Put Free-Trade Talks on Hold After Quake in Setback for Obama Goal (Bloomberg.com, March 25, 2011) Japan’s strongest-ever earthquake may derail Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s push to join U.S.-led trade talks after the resulting tsunami devastated farmers.

Peru inks free trade deal with South Korea; would end tariffs on goods like cars, TVs, coffee (LA Times, March 22, 2011) Peru says it has signed a free trade agreement with South Korea after two years of negotiations.

More Free Trade Agreements? When NAFTA Failed? (Huffingtonpost.com, March 20, 2011) With the Republicans and the Obama administration attempting to rush headlong into a new trade agreements with Korea, and possibly also with Panama and Colombia, it is incumbent on Americans to apply a bit of empiricism. How have our past trade agreements worked out? Above all, how’s the grand-daddy of them all, NAFTA, doing?

Senate GOP pressures White House on free trade deals (CBS News, March 14, 2011) Senate Republicans put the White House and Senate Democrats on notice they intend to block Senate action on all trade related nominations including Commerce secretary until the president sends to Congress free trade agreements for Columbia, Panama and South Korea.

Time to act on free trade (Washington Past, March 14, 2011)The Politics of free trade have never been easy for President Obama – and they appear to be getting harder. Mr. Obama wants congressional ratification of a tariff-slashing deal with South Korea, revising it recently to meet the objections of the U.S. auto industry and labor unions.

EU-South Korea free trade agreement heralds new dawn for Western practices (The Lawyer, February 28, 2011) The move comes after an EU-South Korea free trade agreement (FTA) was signed ­earlier this month.The European Parliament approved the FTA on 17 February, more than a year after the accord was first initialled by EU trade commissioner Catherine Ashton and Korean trade minister Kim Jong-hoon.

Why isn’t the Colombia free-trade deal done? (The Washington Post, February 20, 2011) Much has been written about the president’s lack of leadership on the budget and entitlement reform. But far less scrutiny has been directed at the administration’s slothfulness when it comes to concluding free-trade deals.

South Korea sees trade deal with European Union boosting its clout in the global economy (LA Times, February 18, 2011) South Korea said Friday that a free trade agreement with the EU just approved by lawmakers in Europe stands to significantly increase its clout in the global economy.

China’s free trade cheating threatens our jobs (The Australian, February 17, 2010) There is widespread evidence that China is engaging in a range of illegal practices to stimulate and protect its domestic producers of green technology, from wind and solar energy products to advanced batteries and energy-efficient vehicles.

Trump: “Only a Moron” Supports U.S.-South Korea Free Trade (Dallasblog.com, February 14th, 2011) Real Estate mogul, Donald Trump, who is considering a run for the White House, wants to stop the United States from signing a free trade deal with South Korea and demands that the South Korean government pay Uncle Sam for the U.S. military presence that protects the South from an invasion by the north Korean leader, Kim Jong-il.

South Korea, US sign revisions to free trade deal (Bloomberg Businessweek, February 10, 2011) South Korea says it and the United States have signed amendments to their landmark free trade agreement worked out late last year.

Politicians Opposing Free Trade: It’s All About Politics, NOT Economics, Benefits And Jobs (istockanalyst, February 6, 2011) From a great editorial in yesterday’s Houston Chronicle by Christopher Sabatini titled “Economic Logic Supports Free Trade Agreements,” here are some key points.

Left and Right Playing a Double Game on Trade (The Huffington Post, January 30, 2011) Both Right and Left are playing a double game on trade in America today.

South Korean free trade agreement should reach Congress by March (The Hill, January 27, 2011) Congress could get the final language on the South Korea free trade agreement to consider for debate as early as March.

Who Supports the Colombia FTA? (Latin Business Chronicle, January 26, 2011) The US Chamber of Commerce is delighted that the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is winning broad support. However, less attention has been given to the growing support for the two Latin FTAs. So here’s a quick summary, with an empasis on Colombia.

Obama’s Free Trade Opportunity(Wall Street Journal , January 24, 2011) Mr. Daley will need all his political skills to tackle what we think should become one of the signature accomplishments of his tenure: the return of liberalized trade as a centerpiece of Democrats’ vision of economic competitiveness and globalization.

Negotiate free trade with China – or get left behind (The Globe and Mail, January 19, 2011) The highly publicized visit to the United States this week by Chinese President Hu Jintao is an occasion for Canada to address its own relationship with China. China’s size and phenomenal growth are common knowledge. Sharing in that growth should be a Canadian priority.

Korea free trade agreement draws protests in SF (ABC7 News, January 14, 2011) In December, the U.S. and South Korea reached a tentative agreement on lowering trade barriers between the two countries. The agreement ends tariffs on 95 percent of industrial and consumer trade over the next five years, but opponents fear it’s a bad deal for workers in both countries.

Korea free trade pact will eliminate U.S. jobs and increase deficit (examiner.com, January 14,2011) The Korea Free Trade Agreement is a terrible idea. America’s past trade agreements, from NAFTA on down, have produced larger deficits for the U. S. not smaller ones. These agreements are really offshoring agreements designed to make it easier for American corporations to produce abroad for the American market.

Canada notably absent as Asia talks trade (The Globe and Mail, January 12, 2011) The Prime Minister’s website boasts his government has “a strong and ambitious free trade agreement agenda.” The reality, however, is somewhat different. The Harper government must urgently develop a bold new trade strategy to ensure that Canadian producers will have access to the high-growth markets of the Asia-Pacific region.

10 Problems With Free Trade Among U.S. States (San Fransisco Chronicle, January 8, 2011) Davein Hackensacksays he would like to see me debate Ian Fletcher on free trade, based on Fletcher’s article “Ten Problems With Free Trade”

South Korea Deal May Help Move Trade Pacts with Colombia, Panama (Dow Jones Newswires, January 6, 2011): The recent breakthrough in the free trade agreement between the U.S. and South Korea could pave the way for similar success in concluding talks with Colombia and Panama, a senior U.S. official said Thursday.

Colombia Urges US Trade Agreement but Human Rights Fester (Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2011): A top Colombian official Tuesday urged the U.S. Congress to move forward on long-delayed plans for a free trade agreement, but fresh allegations of human rights violations by Colombia’s military gave further fuel to lawmakers in Washington who are against a deal.

(BBC, May 25, 2011): An Amnesty International report on Ivory Coast has said both sides in the country’s recent political and military crisis committed war crimes. But as well as cataloguing human rights violations during the six months since last November’s disputed elections, the report is a reminder of the direct links between the worlds of human rights and politics.

Human Rights Commissioner criticises Australia (Lateline, May 25, 2011): The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights has described Australia’s detention policy for refugees as racist.

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