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Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records)
Many more Aylans, but
the world is asleep
With 13,000 people rescued in just one week and hundreds presumed drowned, the migrant flow across the Mediterranean to Italy continues to remain high, crying for better world attention.
According to the UN refugee agency, there have been over 46,700 arrivals so far in 2016, compared to 47,463 in the same period last year.
This is an unambiguous signal that thousands of people are still willing to risk their lives on the rough seas than stay back in their homeland where they face poverty, persecution or conflict.
Interestingly, there is no indication that migrant flows are shifting to the Mediterranean from the Aegean route from Turkey to Greece.
Those making the crossing to Italy mostly originate from the Horn of Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, with a very small number of Syrians.
There have also been disturbing reports from survivors of people being forced to board boats and dinghies on Libyan beaches at gunpoint, as well as people being shot dead if they refuse or try to escape.
Meanwhile, just like the photograph of the three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan lying lifeless on a Turkish beach last year, a photograph of a drowned migrant baby in the arms of a German rescuer has now emerged.
German humanitarian organisation, Sea-Watch, distributed the picture taken by a media production company on board and which showed a rescuer cradling the child like a sleeping baby.
The idea ostensibly is to persuade European authorities to ensure safe passage to migrants.
In a tear-jerking description, the rescuer informed the media that he had spotted the baby in the water "like a doll,” arms outstretched.
"I took hold of the forearm of the baby and pulled the light body protectively into my arms at once, as if it were still alive ... It held out its arms with tiny fingers into the air, the sun shone into its bright, friendly but motionless eyes."
The Sea-Watch organisation has stated that in the wake of the disastrous events it becomes obvious to the organisations on the ground that the calls by European Union politicians to avoid further death at sea sum up to nothing more than lip service.
Yes, lip service, indeed, it looks like.
It is better for Europe and the rest of the world to wake up to reality before more and more innocent lives are lost on the rough seas, sharpening questions about the collective conscience of humanity.
Don’t kick out spirit
Violent clashes between fans in France have fouled the opening days of the Euro 2016 soccer tournament and this disgraceful.
Sports should be treated as sports, just that. Fans should enjoy the games and not indulge in such senseless violence. It is not acceptable.
Some people have landed in hospital in serious condition in Marseille after the clashes before and during Saturday's game.
The violence in the stadium was limited compared to the scenes before the match when hundreds of fans pelted each other with cafe chairs and bottles in the Vieux-Port area of Marseille.
Pictures of a father trying to protect his young son while masked Russian fans were kicking and punching retreating fans around him have gone viral raising questions about the authorities' failure to intervene.
The Union of European Football Associations’ (UEFA) threat to kick Russia and England out of the European Championship finals if their fans are involved in more violence makes perfect sense.
With more high-risk matches to come, the UEFA executive committee has correctly made the public "warning" in a statement which expressed disgust for the clashes.
Russia has been charged with crowd disturbances, racist behaviour and letting off fireworks for its fans' part in the stadium trouble.
Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has conceded that his country's fans "behaved improperly."
However, he has also laid the blame on the match organisers for failing to separate supporters.
In the next two summers, Russia will host the FIFA-organised Confederations Cup in four cities and the 2018 World Cup in 11 cities.
Adding to the problem, the violence on Saturday spread along the Mediterranean coast to Nice, where Northern Ireland fans were drawn into fights with local youths and seven people were hurt.
France has deployed more than 90,000 police, soldiers and private security agents across the country to ensure safety for the tournament.
But that does not seem to have restrained the hooligans who furiously targeted innocent victims in the melee.
Fans should not be allowed to take law into their hands. English and Russian football authorities need to heed UEFA’s call to appeal to their supporters to behave in a responsible and respectful manner.
The goal of any sporting activity is to inculcate a spirit of comradeship, not enmity. Those who fail to understand this and indulge in violence cannot call themselves “fans.” They are hooligans and deserve to be booked for the reprehensible offenses they commit.
Time to face the
US health officials have reported the first case in the country of a patient with an infection resistant to all known antibiotics.
This is a matter of grave concern as the superbug could pose serious danger for routine infections if it spreads.
The infection was reported in a study appearing in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology.
It said the superbug itself had first been infected with a tiny piece of DNA called a plasmid, which passed along a gene called mcr-1 that confers resistance to colistin.
"This heralds the emergence of truly pan-drug resistant bacteria," said the study, which was conducted by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of mcr-1 in the USA."
According to the World Health Organisation, antimicrobial resistance occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change in ways that render the medications used to cure the infections they cause ineffective.
When the microorganisms become resistant to most antimicrobials they are often referred to as “superbugs.”
This is a major concern because a resistant infection may kill, can spread to others, and imposes huge costs to individuals and society.
Dr Paul Hoskisson, a member of the Microbiology Society Council, has been quoted by The Independent as warning that the world could be as little as 10 years away from the “terrifying” point at which many infections start to become untreatable.
Antimicrobial resistance is too serious an issue to be ignored.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has already called on leading countries to tackle resistance by reducing the use of antibiotics and rewarding drug companies for developing new medicines.
As he explained, in too many cases antibiotics have stopped working. That means people are dying of simple infections or conditions like TB (tuberculosis), tetanus, sepsis, infections that should not mean a death sentence.
The US case is certainly a wake-up call for the world, although it is not the first time that colistin resistance has appeared.
Cameron has a strong line of reasoning when he says: "If we do nothing about this, there will be a cumulative hit to the world economy of $100 trillion and it is potentially the end of modern medicine as we know it."
The medical world needs to wake up to the serious threat before it gets out of hand.
Stamp out illegal
The booming illegal trade in wildlife products is eroding earth’s valuable biodiversity and driving whole species to the brink of extinction.
The killing and smuggling also undermines economies and ecoystems, fuelling organised crime, feeding corruption and insecurity across the globe, as top United Nations officials point out.
The discovery this week of 70 dead tiger cubs, as well as tiger skins, talismans and other wildlife parts at a Buddhist temple in Thailand highlights the gravity of the situation.
In April 2015, Thai customs confiscated more than three tonnes of African elephant ivory, the second-largest seizure in the country’s history.
The World Environment Day, which is being observed on Sunday, is appropriately themed on the illegal trade in wildlife in a bid to raise awareness of this severe problem. Tigers are one of the key species in the campaign.
The World wildlife Fund said in April that the number of wild tigers in the world stands at around 3,890, with more than 100 wild tigers in Thailand.
The illegal wildlife trade has become a high global priority to tackle, with the UN General Assembly adopting a resolution in July 2015 urging all countries to make this a serious criminal offence.
The damage is visible. In 2011, a subspecies of Javan rhino went extinct in Vietnam, while the last western black rhinos vanished from Cameroon the same year.
Sadly, more than 35,000 elephants are slaughtered each year on the African continent from an approximate population of over 450,000 in the wild.
It is not that the world is too passive on the issue.
Efforts to counter the illicit trade - including stronger policies, awareness campaigns and law enforcement – did score some successes. However, many species remain at risk and it will take a sustained global effort to turn the tide.
The United States has moved in the right direction by announcing a near-total ban on the trade of African elephant ivory, finalising a years-long push to fight the poaching of the threatened animals.
Incidentally, America is the world's second-largest consumer of illegal ivory after China, even though it comes with notable exemptions including for antiques.
The new rule, which takes effect July 6, "substantially limits" imports, exports and sales of ivory across state lines.
China has also pledged to ban the ivory trade domestically and in March widened a ban on ivory imports.
The message is loud and clear: Show zero-tolerance for illegal trade in wildlife.
Slavery should have no
place in modern society
That an evil system like slavery still exists in the modern century across the globe on a huge scale is beyond one’s comprehension.
Australia-based human rights group Walk Free Foundation’s third Global slavery Index has revealed that almost 46 million people are living as slaves globally with the greatest number in India but the highest prevalence in North Korea.
The index has increased its estimate of people born into servitude, trafficked for sex work, or trapped in debt bondage or forced labour to 45.8 million from 35.8 million in 2014.
Incidences of slavery were found in all 167 countries in the index, with India home to an estimated 18.4 million slaves among its 1.3 billion population.
Incidentally, about 58 per cent of people living in slavery are in just five countries - India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan.
The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for children's rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, who was awarded along with Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, was seen by many a sign that India would be forced to better protect its 1.25 billion citizens from abuse.
Unfortunately, child labour, trafficking of sex workers, and bonded labour remain widespread despite India's rapid economic growth over the past decade.
Laws meant to keep children in school and out of the workplace are routinely flouted, as millions are forced into difficult and sometimes toxic jobs including rolling cigarettes, blowing glass in factories, mining in stone quarries or dyeing leather in tanneries.
If at all there is anything like a minor consolation, it is the step the Indian government took last week by unveiling a draft of its first comprehensive anti-human trafficking law to treat survivors as victims rather than criminals.
North Korea has ranked as worst in terms of concentration with one in every 20 people - or 4.4 per cent of its 25 million population - in slavery and it is sad that its government is doing the least to end this.
The United Nation's International Labour Organisation estimates 21 million people globally are victims of forced labour but this does not take into account all forms of slavery.
Abraham Lincoln once mentioned: “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”
Slavery is an issue that should prick human conscience.
The international community can no more afford to shut its eyes to this dreadful reality and should initiate swift and effective action to free the world from slavery.