The Impact of Immigration

The impact of Immigration

Immigration has always existed because some nations have better conditions for their inhabitants than others, particularly in such aspects like labor, wages, health, education, public services and social stability or peace, thus many people leave their countries and move to other in order to live a better life for themselves and their children.

According to Rachel M. Friedberg and Jennifer Hunt´s book, “The Impact of Immigrants in Host Country Wages, Employment and Growth”, in the last three decades, the percentage of immigrant population in some of the nations that have received large numbers of immigrants is as follows:

                   Immigrants as percentage of population:

Country:                                             1981:                          1991:

Australia                                             20.6                            22.7

Belgium                                                9.0                              9.2

Canada                                              16.1                            15.6

West Germany                                    7.5                              8.2

Luxembourg                                      26.1                            28.4

Netherlands                                         3.8                              4.8

Sweden                                                5.0                              5.7

Switzerland                                        14.3                            17.1

United Kingdom                                   2.8                              3.1

United States                                       6.2                              7.9

In the case of the United States, in 2004 the total population was 288.3 million inhabitants, and the number of foreign – born was 34.2 million, including 10.3 million of unauthorized immigrants.  In the particular case of the state of California, the total population was 36.6 million inhabitants, 9.5 million were foreign – born and 2.4 million were unauthorized immigrants.  Immigration accounts for approximately 40% of annual population growth in the US alone.  Immigration, both legal and unauthorized, averaged 218 000 per year for the period 1995 – 2004 and immigration from foreign countries accounted for approximately 40% of the United States population growth during that period.  According to the United States Census Bureau, the total population of the USA is estimated to be 310 555 647 inhabitants as of today, and one international immigrant arrives every 37 seconds.  Recent estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center indicate that the total number of unauthorized immigrants coming to the US in the past few years is 700 000 to 750 000 each year and that the net unauthorized immigrants averaged close to 500 000 per year during that period.  These figures clearly show that immigration is an important source of population growth in most countries.

The main reasons for the immigrants to move to another country are twofold: one, in their own countries, poverty, political instability and scarcity of opportunities, and two,   in the country where they go, more stable political situation, better basic services, like health and social security, education and better jobs and wages.

It is easy to understand that those people decide to leave all they have in their homeland and look for new opportunities in another country just because they would not prosper if they keep on struggling under very unfavorable conditions.  For example, there was a dramatic situation in Nicaragua in the second half of the 1970s as a consequence of the civil war fought by the “contras” against the government.  As a result, the economy of that nation collapsed, most of the industries were closed and the living conditions deteriorated to such a degree that Nicaragua became one of the poorest countries in Latin America.  So many Nicaraguans were forced to abandon their country and move to Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, the USA or Costa Rica.

As Mr. Oswald Céspedez states in his work “Migración en Costa Rica”, between 1974 and 2000, 8.5% of the Costa Rican population was formed by immigrants and two thirds of them were Nicaraguans.   He also quotes that in 2007 there were 81 173 homes in Costa Rica in which the heads were Nicaraguans and that there were 267 409 Nicaraguan people working in our country.

The impact of that migration is again twofold.  In the one hand, we find a very important insertion in the Costa Rican labor force, because those immigrants fill the gap produced by Costa Ricans who look for better jobs and wages, so they leave behind many low – wage jobs that were taken over by these immigrants from Nicaragua.  This has been of great help because they took over what we considered not attractive for ourselves when we decided to look for better positions that allow us to earn more.

In the other hand, and on a personal basis, I say that many of those immigrants do not find the optimum conditions to make a good living, so they go in the bad direction since they decide not to work but to steal, to rob and to traffic drugs instead.

This is why Costa Ricans lost the peaceful cities we once had.  I can easily recall those years before 1975, when we could walk along the streets at any time, even any Sunday evening at ten p.m. without worrying about the possibility of being attacked or murdered by a foreigner having the characteristic accent of a Nicaraguan.  Now it is so common that people get killed just for carrying a mobile phone, an I-pod or a laptop, or perhaps that two robbers stab a bus driver and assault the passengers, that a cab driver is found dead and robbed.

Even though some people do not accept these facts and argue that Nicaraguans are not the only ones to blame, I have witnessed the so negative change in the status and social deterioration that started precisely about the time when massive waves of refugees came from Nicaragua.  Life here was a lot safer than it is now; the circumstances changed very rapidly and we lost security.  This is the direct result of the arrival of antisocial guys, especially from Nicaragua, and years later from Colombia and the Dominican Republic.  They have “taught” many young Costa Ricans how to obtain money the easy way.  They started up gangs that perpetrate those inhuman crimes and the training takes place both at La Reforma Penitentiary Center and on the streets in the marginal sectors of San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia, Guapiles, and Limon, such as Leon XIII, Rincon Grande, “Infiernillo”, “Cuadros”, and many more that are the places where those gangs fight aggressively for the dominance of the territory.  Costa Rica had never had such killing fields.

Another social problem derived from this migration of Nicaraguans is that many young girls who come here do not have good education and become adolescent mothers thus increasing the already large number of immigrants who suffer the bad situation of poverty that we can easily notice in many towns and city suburbs throughout Costa Rica.  It is estimated that almost 50% of all the births in our country are of the children of those girls.

In brief, we can say that immigration has two impacts upon our society.  One is positive: many good professional immigrants have contributed to our labor force and others have taken over many low – category jobs that Costa Ricans abandoned and that must be done.  The other one is terribly negative: the increase of social deterioration and its consequences such as stealing, robbery, lack of social security, poverty, and so forth. 

Bibliography:

1-    http://www.econ.brown.edu/fac/Rachel_Friedberg/Links/friedberg_jep.pdf

The Impact of Immigrants in Host Country Wages, Employment and Growth”, Rachel M. Friedberg and Jennifer Hunt, October 23, 2010.

2-    http://www.census.gov/population/www/popclockus.html  US POPClock Projection, US Census Bureau, October 24, 2010.

3-    http://www.flacso.or.cr/fileadmin/documentos/FLACSO/Carlos_Castro.pdf  “Migración Nicaragüense en Costa Rica, población, empleo y necesidades básicas insatisfechas”, Carlos Castro, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales. October 23, 2010.

4-    http://www.eclac.org/publicaciones/xml/0/34570/lcl2929.P.pdf  “Inmigración en Costa Rica: características sociales y laborales, integración y políticas públicas”  Abelardo Morales, Centro Latinoamericano y Caribeño de Demografía (CELADE) – División de Población de la CEPAL, October 23, 2010.

5-    http://www.labor.ca.gov/panel/pdf/Impact of Immigration.pdf  “The Impact of Immigration on the California Economy, Origin of Immigrants in California” Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.  October 23, 2010.

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Human Rights in Costa Rica.

Human Rights in Costa Rica

Every country is characterized by its culture.  In the case of Costa Rica, a very notorious aspect that has become well known all over the world is our respect for the human rights.  Our country plays a predominant role as a leader in the support and application of the human rights.

When the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights -a fundamental philosophy that incorporates social, religious, ethical and moral principles- was approved on December 10th., 1948, a totally new movement of consciousness in favor of people who had been suffering oppression, lack of freedom, violence, hunger, racism, et cetera, started to adhere firmly in almost every nation in the entire world and as it was expected, the call was warmly accepted in Costa Rica.

This blessed land which God inherited to us not only has followed the trajectory of human rights philosophy as it started spreading throughout the world but also provided a quite fertile soil that has been appropriate for the “plant” of human rights to grow at a significantly fast and steady pace because the idiosyncrasy of the Costa Ricans has several aspects in common with this.

First of all, we were born in a nation of political stability and almost total freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of motion, of religious beliefs besides being one inhabited by gentle people who practice equality, integrity, social security and who struggle for health, education, labor and wellbeing.  Furthermore, since 1949 we have no army, thus the high cost of maintaining so many people in arms is spent in more necessary areas such as infrastructure, health, national economy, education and other social activities, which in turn benefit the application of human rights.

It is easy to notice that the nature of the Costa Rican people is predominantly characterized by independence.  Since the period of colonialism we have been very independent and this is still present in our behavior because we are not only free but sometimes we tend to be rebel.  It means that we do not accept impositions exerted by any other nation and that we decide what to do.

Secondly, our religious and social background has forged a unique society that favors good behavior and at the same time repels misbehavior. It is not common to see that two former presidents had been in prison due to corruption. Consequently Costa Rica adopted the principles of human rights very smoothly because actually they are present in the very way we treat everybody.

As we can see, Costa Rica is perhaps the best example of a nation that puts into practice, strengthens and promotes human rights based on its own experience so we must be very proud of being an active part of this commitment.

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Global Warming.

Global Warming

As a result of the human activities, global warming is one of the biggest problems we have ever had.

Humankind was last to take a place on this magnificent planet God gave us because we depend on everything else, like the minerals, plants, animals, water, the atmosphere and so on. Whether we live near the sea or up in the highlands, we must rely on the presence of the natural resources.  Consequently, we must protect them simply because our planet is the only “spacecraft” – so to say – that we have to go around the sun once every year.

Starting when the first man showed up on Earth, more than 10 000 years ago and until the beginning of the internal combustion engine´s utilization, our impact on the natural resources was rather limited.  What has happened thereafter is that several aspects have come together in the last 100 – plus years.  In the first place we find the tremendous growth of population throughout the world, so the net result on the natural resources has been negative.

In the second place, a serious lack of knowledge and interest on what happens to nature is spreading in most countries and only a few organizations do care.

And finally, the capacity of our planet to maintain life has been severely reduced, giving place to global warming.

In conclusion, we must adopt a totally different attitude towards the environment and global warming.  For instance, we need to re – educate our children, save water, electricity and fuel, recycle, re – use, reforest and protect biodiversity.

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Debate: Against In Vitro Fertilization.

DEBATE:  AGAINST IN VITRO FERTILIZATION

Specialists from the UI Reproductive Services, of the University of Iowa, say: “In vitro fertilization (IVF) is expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally draining.  Insurance companies may not pay for an in vitro fertilization and it may need to be repeated.  It is important for couples to decide early in the process what they can afford, both emotionally and financially.  This includes understanding the in vitro fertilization procedure, the drug therapy, the tests and ultrasound monitoring, the egg retrieval and fertilization process, and how many times they are willing to try the procedure.  Open, sensitive communications are important at all times between the woman, her partner, and the fertility specialist”.

In 2008, an analysis of the data of the National Birth Defects Study in the U.S. found that certain defects were significantly more common in infants conceived with IVF, notably septal heart defects, cleft lip with or without cleft palate, esophageal atresia; the mechanism of causality is unclear.

The Lancet reports: Children born after IVF are more likely to need habilitation services than control children.  The most common neurological diagnosis was cerebral palsy, for which children born after IVF had an increased risk of 3 to 7, and IVF singletons of 2 to 8.  Suspected developmental delay was increased four-fold in children born after IVF.  Twins born after IVF did not differ from control twins with respect to risk of neurological sequelae.  Low birth-weight and premature infants were more likely to need habilitation than full term babies.  Maternal age did not affect risk.

These risks are largely due to high frequency of twin pregnancies, low birth weight, and prematurity among babies born after IVF.  To limit these risks, they recommend that only one embryo should be transferred during the removal of the woman´s egg.

Reference: The Lancet, Volume 359, Issue 9305, Pages 461 – 465.  B. Strömberg, A. Ericson, O. Finnström, M. Köster, K. Stjernqvist.

A study in Western Australia, showed that 75 of 837 infants conceived with in vitro fertilization (9.0 percent) had a major birth defect diagnosed by one year of age, as compared with 168 of the 4 000 naturally conceived infants (4.2 percent).

Infants conceived with use of assisted reproductive technology were more likely to have multiple major defects and to have chromosomal and musculoskeletal defects than naturally conceived infants.

Infants conceived with use of intracytoplasmic sperm injection or IVF have TWICE as high a risk of a major birth defect as naturally conceived infants.

Another study conducted by Dr. Kurinczuk at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Leicester, United Kingdom, reports that the psychological burden of the treatments exceeds the physical burden.  Complications during pregnancy were more frequently reported by IVF mothers and other initially infertile mothers than by fertile mothers.  IVF parents and other infertile parents evaluated the pregnancy as more stressful than fertile parents.

A third study conducted at the Royal Women´s Hospital Reproductive Biology Unit in the state of Victoria, Australia, indicates that both IVF and control twins had significantly poorer physical outcomes than singletons on some measures.

The study does not demonstrate an independent IVF effect on the growth and physical outcome of children at 2 years of age when matched for plurality and gestation.  The poor outcomes where noted were related to the effects of multiple births.

Teresa Iglesias, a Roman Catholic philosopher specializing in medical ethics, refers to this topic:

… In the strict sense IVF is not a medical problem, i.e. a problem arising from concern for health and the development of means to restore or improve health.  Rather it is one of an increasing number of biotechnical problems, i.e. problems arising from the development of techniques designed to circumvent or modify existing (usually defective) modes of bodily function.

A form of study which risks harm to human embryos and experimentation on human embryos for scientific purposes is immoral.  Such experiments are never in the interest of the subject experimented upon, who is harmed, used up and destroyed, always being treated radically as a means, as an object of use, as a `product`, as `material`- to use favorite dehumanizing terms in vogue in the literature.

And she adds: “The common practice of superovulation clearly involves an immoral instrumentalisation of the embryo”.

In “Pediatrics”, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Drs. Kerryn Saunders, John Spensley, Judith Munro and George Halasz, Pediatrics 1996; 97, p.p. 688-692, in their article “Growth and Physical Outcome of Children Conceived by In Vitro Fertilization”, based on the same research study conducted in Victoria, Australia, between January 1991 and July 1993 that included 314 children, state that… “Early epidemiologic studies cautioned of a possible overrepresentation of some congenital malformations in the group of children conceived after in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures”.

Malformations

The IVF children with ocular abnormalities included 1 with ocular albinism and 1 with Duane syndrome.  One IVF child had small ventriculoseptal defects.  One had patent ductus arteriosus in the newborn period.  One had talipes equinovarus.  One had congenital dislocation of the hips.  Two children had presacral dimples.  One had a duplicated renal collecting system; six had more than three dysmorphic features that were not suggestive of a diagnosis other than one control child that was known to have Trisomy 21.

Finally, even though many people are in favor of IVF, the Costa Rican Law does not allow anybody to practice it in our country and this admits no possibility.

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Peacemaking and Peacebuilding.

PEACEMAKING AND PEACEBUILDING

Since the very beginning of humankind, our nature has made us provoke many serious conflicts among nations.  Consequently we have also seen the intervention of some people, countries and organizations that have tried to stop those so negative violent actions that severely affect the contenders wherever and whenever they take place.

When the loss of ethics and irrationality drives a political leader and his staff in one nation to attack another nation, the consequences are disastrous, especially due to the devastating power of modern weaponry.  Thus we now have the participation of diplomats and other distinguished political and religious personalities who commit themselves to restore peace wherever it is lost as a result on an international conflict.  These are the antecedents that have led to the appearance of three important activities: Peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

Peacemaking is the diplomatic effort undertaken by one or several nations, organizations or people to end the violence between the conflicting nations, move them towards peaceful and respectful dialogue, and eventually reach a peace agreement.

According to the United Nations, peacemaking is “action to bring hostile parties to agreement, essentially through such peaceful means as those foreseen in Chapter VI of the Charter of the UN, Pacific Settlement of Disputes.”

Peacemaking is a sincere effort which tries to turn a violent conflict into nonviolent dialogue, where the different points of view are analyzed and settled through representative political institutions.  The main goal of peacemaking is to end the violence between the confronting parties or countries.  Peacemaking relies on negotiation, mediation, conciliation, and arbitration.  Also international law provides a facilitating channel through international courts.

Outside the United Nations definition, peacemaking refers to a condition of conflict, which takes place during a prolonged crisis after diplomatic efforts have failed and before foreign peacekeeping forces have had to intervene during armed combat.

Peacemaking is applied when war crimes and other human-provoked disasters demand the intervention of outside forces.  In this respect, peacemaking is applied as an act of last resort.  It is easy to understand that the outside participants are unlikely to accept the sacrifice of their own troops in order to make peace for other nations.

In the first stage of peacemaking, known as Track 1, diplomacy negotiations involving high level elites take place; thus it is multinational.  Since the costs of getting involved in negotiations are high and because both, the influence and the power of the international community are stronger than those of an individual nation, multinational diplomacy under these circumstances has a better probability of success.  In other words, troop commitment and economic and political costs represent basic constraints on peacemaking actions.  Peacemaking also implies certain moral obligations as well.

Methods of Peacemaking

According to Article 33 of the United Nations Chapter, the methods or modes of peaceful intervention in violent conflicts are: negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, and resort to regional agencies or arrangements.  Articles 41 and 42 of the Chapter allow for sanctions, blockading, and violent intervention in order to restore the peace between the nations in state of conflict.  All United Nations justifications for peacemaking are based on the concept of sovereign states.

Peacebuilding: According to the United Nations document “An Agenda for Peace”, peacebuilding consists of a wide range of activities associated with capacity building, reconciliation, and societal transformation.  Peacebuilding is a long-term process that occurs after violent conflict has slowed down or come to a halt.  Thus, it is the phase of the peace process that occurs after peacemaking and peacekeeping.

Peacekeeping is a third-party intervention (often, but not always done by military forces) to assist the fighting parties in their transition from violent conflict to peace by separating and keeping them apart.

Peacebuilding includes early warning and response efforts, violence prevention, advocacy work, civilian and military peacekeeping, military intervention, humanitarian assistance, ceasefire agreements, and the establishment of peace zones.

It is a process that facilitates the establishment of durable peace and tries to prevent the recurrence of violence by taking care of the root causes and effects of the particular conflict through reconciliation, institution building, and political as well as economic transformation, being the latter a set of physical, social, and structural initiatives that are often an integral part of post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation.

The central task of peacebuilding is to establish positive peace, a “stable social equilibrium in which the surfacing of new disputes does not escalate into violence and war.”  The initiatives aim to move a given population from a condition of extreme vulnerability and dependency to one of self-sufficiency and well being.

As we have seen, modern societies have both, a negative aspect which is the occurrence of violent conflicts that affect very profoundly the nations involved, and a positive one that is the positive reaction of other nations or organizations whose diplomats and representatives undertake to restore peace between them.  These two standpoints provide a clear image of what humankind is: the complex mixture of feelings, desires, emotions and some other attitudes that drive us through life.

Bibliography:

1-    http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/treatment/peacemaking.htm International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict, Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA.  Retrieved on November 28th, 2010.

2-    http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/peacemaking/ Julian Ouellet, September 2003.  Retrieved on November 28th, 2010.

3-    http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/treatment/peacebld.htm International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict, Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA.  Retrieved on November 28th, 2010.

4-    http://www.un.org/peacebuilding/ United Nations Peacebuilding Commission.  Retrieved on November 28th, 2010.

http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/peacebuilding/ Michelle Maiese, September 2003.  Retrieved on November 28th, 2010.

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Terrorism.

TERRORISM

There´s no need to ask or to define what terrorism is.  All of us have watched the news on TV while the speaker describes how a fanatic terrorist committed suicide when he blew himself up with a powerful charge of explosives at the same time he destroyed a large section of a building or a heavily crowded market, killing with his act dozens of innocent people –his victims- just to show the “power” – I´d rather say the lack of it- of his political organization.

One of the most fearsome and non-human atrocities that humankind has witnessed in the last few decades is terrorism.  Even though we don´t need a definition for terrorism, there are more than one hundred definitions; nevertheless, due to the so short length of my essay, I will utilize but a few.  Many people define terrorism as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion”.  It is referred to extremely violent acts which are intended to provoke fear or terror, are perpetrated in order to achieve a religious, political or ideological goal, not taking into consideration the lives nor safety of the  people who become the victims (non-combatants or civilians) and are committed by bon-government agencies.

The definition adopted by the United States Department of Defense is: “the calculated use of unlawful violence to inculcate fear, intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious or ideological.”, whereas the  FBI´s  definition is: “Terrorism is the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”  The British Government definition of 1974 is “…the use of violence for political ends, and include any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public, or any section of the public, in fear.”

The concept of terrorism, according to what we have seen, involves violence, terror, psychic fear, victimization and destruction of noncombatant targets (sometimes iconic symbols).  Those acts have the objective of sending a message from an illicit clandestine organization.  Carsten Bockstette at the George C. Marshall Center for European Security Studies, gives emphasis to the psychological and tactical aspects of terrorism.

Terrorism has been utilized by political parties, nationalistic and religious groups, revolutionaries, and ruling governments.  A typical characteristic is the indiscriminate use of violence for the purpose of gaining publicity for a group, cause, or individual.  The main purpose of terrorism is to take advantage of the media in order to achieve maximum world- wide free publicity to influence a selected audience in order to reach both short- and midterm political goals as well as long-term final conditions.

Due to the wickedness of its ominous nature, since 1994, the United Nations General Assembly has repeatedly condemned terrorist acts defining them as “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”

We must take into consideration three perspectives proper of terrorism:

a-    the terrorist´s, which is the result of absolute fanaticism and indoctrination

b-    b- the victims´, where we only discover that they were totally innocent and had nothing to do with the criminal act (all the relatives and friends of any victim of a terrorist act unanimously see the terrorist as a criminal with no respect for human life) and

c-    c- the general public´s, that includes the target people the terrorist group opposes.

Characteristics of terrorism:

Inevitably political in objectives and motivations

Absolutely violent

Designed to have far-reaching psychological repercussions beyond the immediate victim(s) or target

Carried out by an organization that has a very strong and well organized and trained chain of command or conspiratorial cell structure (whose members obviously wear no uniform or identifying insignia), and

Perpetrated by a group of fanatics belonging to a sub-national organization or non-state entity or group

Terrorist attacks are normally orchestrated as a “performance”.  Besides, those acts are planned and carried out to have an overwhelming impact on the terrorists´ enemies and on as many people as possible and also to maximize the magnitude and persistence of the psychological impact.  Terrorists seldom attack national symbols to show that they also got power and to attempt to destroy the morale of the country or society they are opposed to.  Some people including myself, however, consider that this can be viewed as the total incapacity of the terrorists´ political or religious leaders to negotiate an agreement or to convince their opponents that their philosophy or creed is the correct one.

Very frequently, the victims of terrorism are chosen just because they are characteristic “symbols” that represent the world that the terrorist can not possess and so they hate irrationally.  The suffering and/or death of their victims are part of the terrorist´s message which has the purpose to produce fear and to force their opponents to satisfy their radical or extremist religious or political demands.

Types of terrorism:

There are several types of terrorism but the most important are:

Political terrorism: Violent criminal behavior designed primarily to generate fear in the community or substantial segment of it, for political purposes.

Non-political terrorism: Terrorism not aiming at political purposes but which shows “conscious design to create and maintain a high degree of fear for coercive purposes, but the end is individual or collective gain rather than the achievement of a political objective.”

Official or state terrorism: “refers to some nations whose rule is based upon fear and oppression.”  It may be referred to as Structural Terrorism defined broadly as terrorist acts carried out by governments who look for specific political objectives that might be included in their foreign policy.

Domestic terrorism: this particular type of terrorism demonstrates that every modern suicide terrorist act has targeted a democracy.  As a result of those acts, the concessions awarded to terrorists during the 1980s and 1990s for suicide attacks increased their frequency.  Democracies, such as the United Kingdom, United States, Israel, Indonesia, India, Spain and the Philippines, have experienced domestic terrorism in the last four decades.

Religious terrorism: It is a particular type of terrorism performed by groups or individuals based on faith tenets with the hope to either spread or enforce a system of belief, viewpoint or opinion.

To conclude, I totally agree with Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said that “… what is clear and what we can all agree on is any deliberate attack on innocent civilians, regardless of one´s cause, is unacceptable and fits into the definition of terrorism.”

Similarly another author, (Bittner 2005: 207), said: “There is nothing worth asking here.  It is wrong, and obviously wrong … to kill innocent people for political aims without political authority.”  Furthermore, Per Bauhn believes that “terrorism that targets non-combatants or common citizens can never be justified.  Freedom and safety are fundamental prerequisites of action and therefore must be accorded paramount weight”.  And Gewirth (1981:16), says: “The need to protect them generates a range of rights; the right pertinent here is “an absolute right not to be made the intended victims of a homicidal project” all innocent persons have.  Absolute moral rejection of terrorism can also be based on a natural law ethics that takes the prohibition of intentional killing of an innocent person to be absolute, admitting of no exceptions whatever the circumstances.”

Terrorism is for me the desperate act of extremists and fanatics who try to either show power to their opponents or force them to accept their demands.   No human being who has learned a doctrine of living in peace with our neighbor – like us, the followers of Jesus Christ – can ever accept this irrational practice.

Bibliography:

1-    Terrorism, Retrieved November 24, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org.wiki/Terrorism

2-    Terrorism RESEARCH, International Terrorism and Security Research, Retrieved November 24, 2010, from http://www.terrorism-research.com/

3-    Terrorism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Retrieved November 24, 2010, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/terrorism/

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The Importance of Saving Electricity.

The Importance of Saving Electricity

One of the things that many people do throughout the world without taking care about the way they do it is consuming electricity.  As a result, the consumption of that form of energy sometimes becomes a problem because the generating capacity cannot match the demand.  My short essay has the goal of explaining how important it is to save electricity.

When Michael Faraday demonstrated how his small generator was able to produce electricity in 1831, he was not foreseeing what this industry would be in the following 180 years.  Starting in the early 1880s, the electrical systems gradually changed man´s ability to work and carry out almost every conceivable task.

In Costa Rica, the very first hydroelectric plant, Aranjuez, started operating at 6:30 p.m. on August 9th, 1884, thus becoming either the third or fifth in the whole world.  The electrical industry began to develop very rapidly during the first half of the Twentieth Century.  Nevertheless, it was controlled by a foreign company, Electric Bond and Share Company, through a local subsidiary, the “Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz –CNFL-“.  The “service” they provided was of poor quality due to the fact that their main interest was to profit from the selling of electricity, however.

Since the customers were not satisfied at all, a group of young engineers founded The Costa Rican Institute of Electricity –ICE- on April 8th, 1949.  Before ICE began producing electricity, less than 14% of the population had that service.

As a result of ICE´s effort to provide all the electricity that the country requires for its development, today´s generating capacity allows most of us to consume all the electricity we really need plus a lot more that is wasted.

There are many aspects dealing with the waste of electricity, so I will focus on just three of them:

A-   Wasting electricity is an error.  The energy recorded by the electric meter must be paid according to what the electric bill indicates, no matter if we did not use it properly.  Thus, it is a very common mistake all over our country.

B-   Wasting electricity becomes a bad habit.  This is very bad because we are creatures of habits. If I wasted electricity, water, or whatever yesterday, I waste them today and I will waste them tomorrow simply because wasting becomes a part of my “normal” behavior.

C-   Wasting electricity is copied by all who live around us.  If a lady puts clothes on the back of her fridge, her four-year-old little girl would do exactly the same because the latter sees her mother as a behavioral model and doesn´t understand that both of them are forcing the compressor and thus it will consume more electricity and become less efficient; thus, reducing its life span.

Among other reasons I want to say that we must save electricity to make a better use of it, to save money, to reduce the import of fossil fuels and lubricants and to protect the environment, because the slower the demand rises, the less we attack our natural resources to build new generating plants.

Saving electricity is very easy to do and it produces many good results.  Perhaps the best one is to preserve this beautiful planet God inherited us.

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Harsher Jail Sentences.

Harsher Jail sentences for criminals and penalties for drunk drivers

The visible condition of our society is the sum of the attitudes of the individuals who constitute it.  So, we must have an attitude that be as good as possible and it ought to function as a model for the others to follow.

Consequently, every rule, every agreement, every article or item in a law must be obeyed.  Otherwise the good attitudes of some individuals would be neutralized or surpassed by the bad or negative behavior of those who don´t respect the law.

The purpose of establishing those limits to the members of the society is to define a set of indicators that lead us to live in harmony.  As a result of this, jail sentences for criminals and penalties for drunk drivers must produce a change in their behavior so that they will no longer affect negatively the normal life of the rest of our society.

Unfortunately, many people oppose these reasoning and try to justify their behavior based on the assumption that we have to be tolerant.  Some others seek for ways to get exonerated of the penalties for their faults, but they rely on false premises.

We must always remember that we harvest what we have planted.  If we put into practice good conduct we can expect good results, but if we think that we can live a life of ease without taking care of how we affect the others, sooner or later we will have to pay for our faults.

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Current Ethnic Conflict.

Ethnic Conflict

Ethnic conflict is a phrase that we apply to describe the clash of two or more ethnicities that fight in order to obtain dominance of the territory or to impose the decisions of one group to the other. There have been many ethnic conflicts since the beginning of humankind, so to list all of them would be just impossible.  So I will mention a rather short list of the relatively recent ones.

Grave ethnic conflicts have impacted the society of the 20th century.  We have read in the newspapers and watched on TV the news about large-scale genocide, the mass murder of large groups of people.  For instance, ethnic cleansing literally refers to the attempt to completely eliminate entire ethnicities.  An ethnic group, or ethnicity, is    defined as “a large group of people who share a distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or otherwise cultural heritage.”  When the borders of many countries were   changed at the end of World War II (1939 – 1945), many ethnicities were grouped together within one nation.  Conflicts began to appear and some escalated to mass murder.  Seen this, Sir Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England during that period said: “The mixture of population will cause endless trouble.”  And he was absolutely right!

The Armenian Massacre: In the late 1890s, Islamic Turks and the minority Christian Armenians lived in relative peace, as each ethnic group remained separate.  But, as nationalistic sentiment increased to repel European imperialism, peace ended.  When the Armenians protested the strict policies of the government that affected them, thousands were killed.  In a period of 25 years, more than a million people were massacred, the worst of it occurring during World War I (1914 – 1918).  Many Armenians left Turkey and settled in the United States.  The Turkish government still insists that there was no intention to eliminate the Armenians.

The Nazi Holocaust: One of the most atrocious episodes of mass murder of an ethnic group in the 20th century was the Holocaust.  It was also the most devastating in its magnitude and utter evilness.  The Holocaust saw the murder of more than 12 million people, especially of 6 million of Jewish for which it is best known.  Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany a few years after World War I.  In the interim period between the world wars, Hitler and his Nazi party used anti-Semitism, or the organized hatred of Jewish people to blame them for the fears and problems faced by the German people.  Hitler and the Nazis considered the Jews undesirables and he promoted his Aryan Race, a pure German race superior to the rest of the races in the whole world.

Systematic and organized attacks against the Jewish people started in the early 1930s, an example being “Kristallnacht”, or the Night of the Broken Glass.  It included beatings, the burning of synagogues, and the capturing of Jews who were sent to concentration camps.  The use of camps progressed, the numbers of persecuted rose, and slave labor was employed in the war effort against the Allies.  Life in the camps was brutal, and death became extremely common.  When it became evident that Germany was losing the war, Hitler began the Final Solution, an attempt to eradicate all Jewish people from Europe.  The work camps became death camps where thousands were murdered in gas chambers.  When Hitler understood that Germany had lost the war, he avoided being arrested and the subsequent trials through suicide.  A few years after the war ended, Nazi officials were charged with crimes against humanity in the Nuremburg Trials.  The precedent was that “following the orders” as a means of defense was no longer a legitimate excuse.

The Balkan Situation: The Balkans is an extremely diverse region.  Prior to the fall of communism, most of that region constituted the former nation of Yugoslavia, a communist state and Czechoslovakia was also considered to be a part of the Balkans. The latter was peacefully divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the 1990´s.  However, the end of communism carried a large degree of instability in politics, economy, and society, as in the case of Yugoslavia.  In 1991, ethnic tension resulted in a civil war that forced the end of Yugoslavia as a nation.  The loss of power that resulted originated the formation of a number of smaller states, each having a majority of the population falling within certain ethnic and/or religious lines.  Ethnic groups   were divided by new borders and so there were several of them within one country.  To worsen the conflict, the multiple ethnicities have centuries old animosities for one another.  Therefore, the ruling majorities often did not give equal representation in government to the minorities.  The three main ethnic groups are the Croats, Muslims, and the Serbs.  However, also present are significant number of Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Rumanians, Slovenes, Bulgarians, Montenegrins, Albanians, Macedonians, Turks, Germans, Ukrainians, and Greeks.

The leader of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, had risen to power in the fall of communism.  Despite its established independence, Bosnia remained divided among its ethnicities.  Muslims were in the majority, but Serbs and Croats were minorities by slight margins.  Under the direction of Milosevic, Serbs began receiving money and weapons from Serbia and began the practice of ethnic cleansing.  Serbs started removing by force non-Serbs from controlled areas.  Many people were murdered, raped, and brutalized.  The United Nations tried to intervene but not before the country and the people themselves were torn apart.  Recently, Milosevic was charged and convicted of crimes against humanity for his role of leadership in the brutality.

Ethnic Conflict in Africa: Many of the problems faced by Africa at the end of WWII including disunity can be blamed on European Imperialism.  Political corruption is almost everywhere because European imperialists left without establishing stable governments.  Ethnic tension exists because European borders were made without taking into consideration the tribal system.  Tribalism is one of the biggest hindrances to Africa because traditional enemies were located within one European-made border.  A good example of ethnic tension is the conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis in which over 500,000 people on both sides were massacred in a matter of weeks in 1994 and many more were forced to move to Zaire and Uganda to seek refuge, discarding their weapons as they went.  Rwanda and Burundi had significant populations of Hutus and Tutsis, both traditional tribes.  In Rwanda, Hutus are the majority and have political and economic dominance over the Tutsis.  In Burundi, the opposite happens with Tutsis in power.  Ethnic differences that are invisible to a foreigner had resulted in seven-year long civil war.  Other African nations where ethnic groups fight against one another are Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, and Sierra Leone, and Uganda under the infamous rule of Idi Amin.

Other cases:

Democratic Republic of the Congo: the Second Congo War started in 1998 in.  By 2008, 5.4 million people had been killed, largely from disease and starvation.  Hostilities continue to present.

Indonesia: In the province of Halmahera, Christians fight against Muslims.  The conflict started in July, 1999.

Iraq: In modern times, this nation has committed genocide on the Kurdish people under the dictator Saddam Hussein.  The weapon typically used in this conflict is poison gas.

Kashmir: Claimed by both India and Pakistan.  Approximately 60 000 people have died since 1989.  Some analysts consider that the dispute almost led to a nuclear war between those two countries.

North Ireland: Catholic and Protestants have been permanently in conflict for more than 30 years.  However, they can live and prosper together elsewhere.

Sri Lanka: Since 1983; The Sinhalese and the Tamils fight each other for power.  It ended in 2009 with the defeat of the Tamils.

Other countries and regions where ethnic conflicts have occurred are:

Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burundi, Côte D`Ivoire, Cyprus, East Timor, India, Kosovo, Kurdistan, Macedonia, the Middle East, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia (Chechnya), Somalia, South Africa, Sudan (Darfur), Thailand, Tibet, and Uganda.

Why does ethnic conflict happen?

According to Ph. D. Kevin MacDonald in his work, “The Numbers Game: Ethnic Conflict in the Contemporary World”, there are various reasons for ethnic conflict to happen. As a consequence of our evolution, people seem predisposed to place themselves within groups of biological descendants, to accept similar others, and to consider similar others as friends.  Thus, attraction to similar others is more evident in heterogeneous environments where people compete against strangers and other relatively dissimilar people.

The authors found evidence that this is exactly what takes place in schools, housing, and informal, voluntary groupings in the USA even though a great deal of political and legal effort has been done to promote integration. That´s why residential segregation of whites, Asians, Hispanics and Blacks is stronger and more resistant to change than residential patterns among European immigrant groups at the beginning of the last  century and Blacks are residentially segregated at all income levels.

This also explains why new immigrants tend to live in residential areas where people of their same race have already settled, while on the contrary domestic, American-born migrants –especially Caucasian – prefer to live in communities where immigrants are not welcome or cannot afford to live.

Ethnic conflict has biological origin, too.  Pierre van den Berghe´s work “The Ethnic Phenomenon” considers ethnic group affiliation as a result of a system that started with the need to promote cooperation within close family groups at the beginning of social organization in humankind´s past.  Today, the leaders of those ethnic groups are able to govern them and the people see the ethnic group as a “big family”.  Other researchers think that ethnic conflict is a result of manipulation by elites that are acting in the interest of the group.

Another explanation is based on the genetic similarity theory (Ruston, 1989).  This theory proposes mechanisms that assess phenotypic similarity that define genetic similarity.  Both phenotypic and genetic similarities are important factors that may have an important role in ethnic conflict, because there is more genetic and phenotypic similarity among individuals of the same ethnic group.  Ethnic groups typically differ in physical features, religion, and clothing or some other obvious aspects.

Minority groups, especially American groups of African or Latin American origin have already developed strong ethnic identities in the U.S.  These movements often have militant, racialist expressions.  For example, Afrocentrism is often associated with racialist ideologies in which ethnicity is viewed as the basis of self-identity and self-esteem and in which we find a close connection between ethnicity and culture.

In his work “Us and Them” (March/April 2008), writer Jerry Muller tells about the potential for ethnic diversity to generate violent conflict.  He argues that ethnic nationalism –which originates in the need for each people to have its own state- “will continue to shape the world in the 21st. century.”

An important factor that affects ethnic conflict is the predominant economy of the ethnic group and modernization.  It explains why ethnic conflict is easier to find in developing countries than in developed ones. Development will provide powerful incentives to reduce its incidence.

On a personal basis, it is impossible for me to understand how these tragedies have taken place.  Every individual, every family, every community, and every nation is based on the social and religious principles of sharing, understanding, tolerating,   helping, and loving our neighbor.  I once learned that I must never do to anybody what I wouldn´t like that the others do to me.  So I just can´t explain why an individual who isn´t able to kill anybody if acting alone becomes a murderer if he/she becomes a member of a tribe during an attack to another tribe.  If we realize that we are human beings and that we were created by God and that we are rational, we must not let our animal instincts govern us.  Otherwise we would easily become worse than animals, as we have seen in this short study of ethnic conflicts.

Bibliography:

1-    http://www.csulb.edu/~kmacd/paper-numbersGame.html  “The Numbers Game: Ethnic Conflict in the Contemporary World”  Kevin MacDonald, Ph.D. October 21st, 2010.

2-    http://personal.lse.ac.uk/casellif/papers/ethnic.pdf  “On the Theory of Ethnic Conflict” Francesco Caselli and Wilbur John Coleman II, London School of Economics.  October 21st, 2010.

3-    http://arp.sagepub.com/content/early/2008/05/15/0275074008317844.short  “Ethnic Conflict in France: A Case for Representative Bureaucracy?  Kenneth J Meier and Daniel P. Hawes.  October 21st, 2010.

4-    http://www.regentsprep.org/Regents/global/themes/conflict/ethnic.cfm  “Ethnic Conflict” Regents Prep: Global History.  October 21st, 2010.

5-    http://wwwglobalpost.com/dispatch/asia/100617/kyrgyzstan-news-ethnic%20conflict  “Kyrgyzstan: surviving ethnic conflict” David L. Stern.  October 21st, 2010.

6-    http://www.religioustolerance.org/curr_war.html  “Religious Tolerance” Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. October 31st, 2010.

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Globalization and Infectious Diseases.

Globalization and Infectious Diseases

Globalization is a brand new condition that is modifying almost every activity, including the propagation of infectious diseases in the whole world.  This term is defined as “changing the nature of human interaction across a wide range of spheres including the economic, political, social, technological and environmental…”

As a result of the speed at which people can travel from one place to any other anywhere in the world, it is very easy that just one sick person in a transoceanic flight may disseminate billions of viruses in term of only some hours.  Let´s suppose that a person is beginning to feel the effects of influenza and that this individual is in an airport just about to take a twelve-hour flight to Europe.  After a few hours of flight he/she might have   contaminated a high percentage of the people on board the airplane, thus when this person gets to his/her destination he/she will be pretty much sick and propagating that illness to perhaps all the people who would be near him/her.  The possibility of propagating that illness to many thousand more people in just a few days is enormous.  This is why the avian influenza disseminated so fast a few years ago.

Globalization is affected by some forces such as economic processes, technological developments, political influences, culture, as well as social and natural environmental factors.  Those forces produce both direct and indirect impacts on health, one example being the relationship between globalization and infectious diseases because there are changes in the disease distribution and transmission rate.

Infectious diseases are hitting the least capable to face them – the peoples of the developing world, particularly Africa and India.  Both are victims of very high population losses.  Approximately 5 million people in Africa and 2 million people in India – mostly children and young adults – die every year as a consequence of those diseases.  Africa and India´s 7 million infectious disease deaths represent 70% of all deaths worldwide due to infectious diseases and 13% of all deaths worldwide.

The most prevalent infectious diseases in the developing world are HIV/AIDS, cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever, rotavirus, tuberculosis, malaria and measles, which combined have caused a total of 10 million deaths in 1998 alone.  HIV/AIDS has attacked an estimated 42 million people worldwide and killed more than 2 million in 1998, also.

Diarrheal diseases have resulted in the death of almost 2 million children worldwide every year.  Tuberculosis has infected some 1.9 billion people which are almost one third of the world´s population and it kills 1.5 million victims a year and infects another 8 million every year.  Malaria strikes 275 million and produces the death of between 1-1.5 million every year.  In 1998, malaria claimed roughly one million lives, mainly in Africa.  It is estimated that every day 3,000 people die from malaria.  Measles is affecting almost a million people a year and again of the estimated 888,000 deaths from measles in the whole world in 1998, 78% took place in Africa and India.

Specialists consider that globalization may be changing the distribution of health and disease in many countries and regions of the world.  A careful attention to those relationships between globalization and infectious diseases shows a disproportionate focus on selected infections, both acute and epidemic and that there is a danger of underestimating this gigantic problem that affects poor countries.

People who have studied the effects of globalization on health and economy consider that the long-term sustainability of globalization requires greater attention to the social costs of current forms of globalization, including health.  It is important for every government in the world to understand that the resources needed to prevent, treat and control infectious diseases in a globalizing world are worthwhile.

Infectious disease is a major public health issue for both developed and developing countries.  The human cost for developing nations is immediate and severe due to premature deaths, diminished economic productivity, and orphaned children.  For developed countries, infectious diseases are a quite possible threat in the near future because of the problem of new and drug-resistant infectious diseases migration to those industrialized countries due to microbial evolution and the increasing resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs. For developing countries, the effects are much more devastating: the human and economic costs of infectious diseases strike them   almost immediately.  Several millions of people – particularly children – die every year, and millions more are severely affected by the symptoms.  In basic economic terms, sub-Saharan Africa´s malaria alone is estimated to cost the region $500 million annually.  

As we have seen, globalization carries along certain conditions that affect humankind adversely, being the infectious diseases one of the worst and most expensive for the economy of the nations that face them and their consequences.

Bibliography:

1-    http://apps.who.int/tdr/publications/tdr-research-publications/globalization-infectious-diseases/pdf/seb_topic3.pdf  “Globalization and infectious diseases: A review of the linkages”  UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO.  October 28th., 2010.

2-    http://medicalecology/pdf/presentation/Globalization%20of%20Infectious%20Diseases.pdf  “Globalization of Infectious Diseases”.  Author not mentioned.  October 28th., 2010.

3-    http://www.prcdc.org/files/Infectious_Disease.pdf “Executive Summary – The Globalization of Infectious Disease” World Health Organization.  October 28th., 2010.

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