Digest: 29 July 2014




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In The Children of War: A Humanitarian Catastrophe Unfolds in Gaza, Julia Amalia (for Der Spiegel) discusses the deteriorating situation in Gaza as the repercussions of the conflict continue to grow. Although both Hamas and Israel have suffered, the damage has not been equivalent – Gaza’s infrastructure has almost totally broken down and even traditional safe havens such as schools and hospitals are not immune to Israeli missile attacks. Both sides have reason to continue the conflict, but in the Western world outrage is mounting at the disproportionate damage being done by Israel. Experienced aid workers on the ground say it is currently the worst they’ve seen it. Even in the event the fighting stops there will still be the problem of providing water now that Gaza’s water system has been destroyed.


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In This Huge Corporation is Tackling Climate Change – Because It’s a Threat to the Bottom Line, James West (for Mother Jones) discusses the turn-around of General Mills in its recognition of climate change, and the steps it is taking in response to it. In particular, Oxfam International had cast light on General Mills’ failure to oversee its suppliers.  Since then, General Mills has released a set of promising climate policies and has announced it is to join BICEP and CERES, two environmentally-conscious business organisations that help educate their members and policymakers on sustainable business practices.


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In Young Americans Take a Dim View of Israel’s Actions, Aaron Blake (for The Washington Post) discusses two recent polls that show a large divide between young and old Americans on who is to more to blame in the conflict in Gaza.  On the whole, Israel retains the most part of American support, but the recent results show something new – those aged 18-29 believe by a 2-1 margin that Israel’s recent incursions into Gaza have been unjustified. This may suggest a generational trend towards a different relationship between the US and Israel, but not necessarily. The same age group shows up as being the least informed on the conflict – only a quarter of it is following the conflict closely.

In Drone Warfare: Who is Dying in Afghanistan’s 1000-Plus Drone Strikes?, Alice K. Ross (for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism) discusses the limited information available on drone strikes in Afghanistan. The information released by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) there differs markedly from the results of investigations made by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) – the ISAF reports apparently have been minimizing mention of civilian casualties, but UNAMA’s results show a far bleaker picture. Even UNAMA’s results may underestimate the damage as many drone strikes go unreported. In any event it is very difficult to know who authorized and carried out any given strike, which makes accountability for casualties far less possible.

In Why is the West Idly Watching the World Burn?, Simon Palamar (for the Center for International Governance Innovation) discusses how while Putin has provoked and fueled war in Ukraine, the West is also to blame for giving him little reason to stop. Europe is the worst offender, largely due to its energy reliance on Russia. But Canada and the US are also complicit in only weakly sanctioning Russia too late to have the desired effect. Whatever the reasoning is behind the delay, it is not sufficient, and the situation got far worse with the MH17 tragedy.

In The US has Given Over 465,000 Small Arms to Afghanistan. Where the Hell Are They?, Dana Libelson (for Mother Jones) discusses how neither the US nor the Afghan systems for tracking the hundreds of thousands of machine guns, grenade launchers, and rifles that have been distributed to Afghan security forces are sufficient. The failure to keep track of the weapons increases the possibility that they will fall into the hands of insurgents and end up harming US troops and their allies. There is the further risk that these weapons can end up crossing borders to fuel other conflicts elsewhere.


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In Repeal Prohibition, Again, The Editorial Board of The New York Times advocates for an end to federal prohibition of marijuana. After close consideration the Board believes that as a matter of health, impact on society, and law and order issues that national legalization is the best course forward. The main reasons laid out against legalization are not adequate justification for prohibition, particularly as evidence shows marijuana to be far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, and that its prohibition has caused massive social costs, that disproportionately fall on black populations.

In Is the Internet Now Just a Big Human Experiment?, Dan Gillmor (for The Guardian) discusses the social experimentation that has recently come to light with Facebook and more recently with the online dating site OKCupid.  Gillmor posits that this behavior is unsurprising but worrying – what happens if the norm becomes that companies can more directly deceive and manipulate their customers without consequence. If the internet industry doesn’t govern itself to better protect its users, it may find itself subject to heightened regulatory oversight.