A female philanthropist and investment manager is leading the movement to challenge Britain’s current process for leaving the European Union. Gina Miller, a British activist with an appetite for campaigning against hidden fund charges in the City of London, and exposing irresponsible investment funds for malpractice, argued that without legislation passed in Parliament, Britain cannot begin Brexit negotiations. Her appeal won. Last week, Britain’s High Court ruled that the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, may not begin Brexit talks without Parliamentary consent.

Read More...

Clandestine Radio Fights ISIS Non-Violently

An Iraqi trailblazer has found a creative solution to the communication embargo imposed by ISIS in their last Iraqi stronghold, Mosul, which the group has controlled since June 2014. Mohamad Al Mawsily, a Mosul-native, broadcasts seven days a week on his pirate radio station, Alghad FM, Arabic for tomorrow. His station serves as a forum “to communicate with the people inside Mosul” and provide a psychological escape from the ISIS-held region of Northern Iraq. His mission is to “break the siege by Daesh”—the Arabic word for ISIS—by overcoming one of their most essential means of control: suppression and propaganda in the realm of ideas.

Read More...

Poland Backs Down From Near-Total Abortion Ban After Massive Protest

Abortion has often been a controversial subject throughout the past century, in different societies. In many countries abortion is still illegal, rendering women who continue with the procedure at higher risk, due to harmful and unverified abortion methods. Some countries have adopted the abortion law, which permits, prohibits, restricts, or otherwise regulates the availability of abortions. However, according to the World Health Organization, the abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal to countries where it is not. Furthermore, there are no international laws ensuring that a proper abortion law, making sure all women have equal access to the procedure, is applicable throughout the world. The American Convention on Human Rights declared human life as commencing with conception in 2013, whereas the United Nations Human Rights Committee ordered Peru to compensate a woman denied abortion in 2005, which was only done in 2016. This was the first time that an international committee acknowledged that abortion is a human right.

It is important to note that in 97% of all countries, abortion is permitted when a woman’s health is at risk. 49% accept it in the case of rape or incest, 69% in the case of physical health, and 24% because of economic or social reasons. Only 29% of all countries accept abortion upon a woman’s request. Even in the United States, despite the changes brought about by the Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1973, there exist many restrictions to how an abortion can be conducted in certain circumstances, including physician and hospital requirements, gestational limits, or waiting periods.

Read More...

Technology To Help a Refugee System That Can Be Failing

Although the United Nation Human Rights Convention enforces international organizations and governments to fully protect refugees and help in their settlement, a lot of the refugees find themselves in unsettling and waiting situations. Because they are waiting for their asylum status to be processed, or working on attaining a level of English high enough to find a job, they lose time and energy. Their resources are almost put to waste because the countries welcoming them do not recognize their past experiences. As Alexander Betts pointed out in a recent TedTalk, Our Refugee System is Failing. Here is How We Can Fix It, “We lament labor shortages, and yet we exclude people who fit our economic and demographic needs from coming to Europe…the refugees get stuck in an almost indefinite limbo”.

Alexander Betts then explains that there are four ways to change the situation to update the ways we think about the refugee issue and to take advantage of the opportunities of globalization, mobility and markets. That is, the idea of enabling environments and economic zones, increasing preference matching between states and refugees, and administering more humanitarian visas.

The city of Berlin has come up with a new strategy, focused on the idea of technology. For instance, on February 21st, a social entrepreneur, Anne Kjaer Riechert, opened a school to teach coding after she met an Iraqi developer in a refugee camp who hadn’t had the chance to touch at a computer in two years because he was waiting for his asylum process to be completed. The school, named ReDI School of Digital Integration, will be based in seven different places in the city, known as incubation centers, enabling to offer coding and mentoring sessions to the refugees as a way to wait for the finalization of asylum claims.

Furthermore, technology is helping to deliver aid to refugees in the form of registration with biometric verification, smartcard-based aid, smart device data collection, mobile communications and telemedicine. Indeed, the use of IRISScan speeds up the process of registration. Any refugee needs to register through the UNHCR database in order to be recognized as such and receive aid in the form of shelter, food, healthcare and education. In addition, technology is useful to remind refugees of doctors’ appointments, health checks, and vaccination requirements, or to provide video calls for medical consultations in camps or other places. Finally, smartphones are crucial for the refugees to find solace and contact each other in their state of transit and loss of safety. Smartphones enable them to find a place to sleep, translate foreign languages, communicate with foreigners and loved ones, and the like.

To assist refugees to the most efficient degree of our digital age, at a time when authorities prove to not be so cooperative by confiscating cellphones at borders for instance, a few organizations were created, like the school in Berlin, and a conference occurred in London. These initiatives matter to ensure that the refugees do not end up in a state of infinite limbo. One of the ideas was to create an app, ‘GeeCycle’, to engage people to donate cellphones to refugees. ‘Trace the Face’ from the Red Cross involves uploading photos to locate missing family members, ‘Refugees Welcome’ uses Airbnb to match refugees with people offering a place to stay in Germany, or ‘refugeeinfo.eu’ to provide ups-to-date, location-specific logistical info on housing, authorities and social services. Providing better mobile networks ensures to keep refugees off smuggling services, labor trafficking, and the like, as it is easy to publish fake advertisements.

Germany has accomplished a lot in terms of thinking about technology for refugees to provide a smooth resettlement and it is time to expand this thinking globally. With better resettlement, there is a lesser risk of chaos, statelesness and general violence. There is lesser risk of children left on the shore.

Read More...

The Effects of the State of Emergency in France

On November 13th, 2015, Paris endured terrorist attacks in certain districts, killing 130 civilians and injuring 350. Two days later, the president Francois Hollande proclaimed a state of emergency, leading to a series of warrantless house searches and enforced house arrests. Such a state normally only lasts for twelve days. Being so far away from my hometown, I was already shocked to realize that the streets I have walked on, danced on and sat on, did not represent the same safe space to a lot of inhabitants. Through telephone conversational waves, I have heard of friends feeling frustrated to drink on terraces or to listen to music during their daily subway rides. The proclamation of the emergency state enhanced my shock even more. I was losing touch with the stability I always associated with my home.

On another note, the attacks revived memories of what France used to be, with its accessible freedom and laissez-vivre. A France where the people drink for hours on end on the banks of the river, where the people bike around in the narrow streets, where every terrace is filled up as soon as the sun settles itself in the summer days.

At the moment, the people are trying to grasp their own concept of patriotism. Following the attacks, the country has seen an unusual selling record of flags. The thought of putting a flag on a balcony or a door in any city was inconceivable before. However, now the inhabitants are proud to display their flags and they are rather discernable within the city.

Read More...

Everything You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

Source: AP

In May of 2015, Brazil confirmed its first case of a viral infection that has since gone on to become a recent outbreak. This marked yet another sporadic outbreak of the Zika virus.

The Zika virus was first discovered in humans in 1952. Since then, there have been reports of the it affecting communities in the Pacific Islands, the Americas and parts of Africa. The current outbreak is concentrated  primarily in the Americas, where 28 countries are reported to have active Zika transmission.

Countries and Territories with Active Zika Virus Transmission; graphic via cdc.gov

Countries and Territories with Active Zika Virus Transmission; graphic via cdc.gov

Zika and the United States

In the United States there have been 84 reported cases of Zika infections during this outbreak. However, all these cases result from travel-associated infections, where the individual was exposed to the virus overseas. There are zero cases of citizens contracting the Zika while in the United States.

On February 8th, the White House provided information regarding the virus. The press release states that the Administration has asked congress for $1.8 billion in emergency funding to end to Zika locally and internationally.

Read More...

The Lost Generation

From the IMPACT Archives December 2014
By Sam Friedlander

They’re calling them the Lost Generation.

Back home, my generation is the iGeneration, the Selfie Generation, the Hashtag Generation. Cute, clever titles gently mock our self-obsession and reliance on technology.

In Syria, they’re the Lost Generation. It’s not cute, it’s not clever, but it might be true, and that’s heartbreaking. An entire Syrian generation isn’t being educated, and the consequences could be dire for Syria’s future.

Read More...