Immediately after the events of 9/11, many of us all around the world shared the same experience: a mixture of anger, of dejection, of uncertainty. As the embers continued to smolder in New York and Washington, almost all of us, along with human rights activists (myself included), expected that our government would take some liberties in hunting down and exposing the perpetrators of this mass murder. We were prepared to live with that in the immediate aftermath of the most devastating attack from abroad the U.S. mainland had ever known, as long as the mission focused on justice rather than revenge. But, as seems fated to occur whenever an authority receives a new power, the power was abused. Suspects were being apprehended on intelligence of dubious quality, as age-old feuds and political scores were settled via accusations of terrorism. At the same time those detained saw rights guaranteed under both international and federal law rapidly slip away. The country was afraid, and it showed. Rather than rally the nation to a course that would bring perpetrators to justice while re-affirming our country’s deep historic commitments to human rights and the rule of law, the Bush Administration built a shrine to our fears. The world knows it by a single name: Guantanamo.
I was saddened to see <i>The Tech</i>’s regrettable decision to run a political cartoon (April 24, 2007) about the Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 ruling to uphold a ban on intact dilation and extraction (often termed “partial birth abortion”). The cartoon in question depicted the Supreme Court in the form of a coat-hanger, implying that women’s rights and freedoms are harmed by the court’s decision.
Two decades ago, the United Nations’ Brundtland Commission defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Later, in the 1990s, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development took this a step further, recognizing that sustainable development requires a balance of three dimensions — economic growth, social development and environmental protection.
Some of the greatest challenges ever faced by humanity, such as climate change, power generation, and access to natural resources now simultaneously loom large on our collective horizon. All of these challenges appear separate on the surface but are actually woven together by human behavior and the impacts of technology.
In addition to being Earth Day, April 22 is also the birthday of V. I. Lenin, who in 1902 famously took on the old question of how we can create a better world. His answers may no longer resonate, but some criticisms of capitalism seem increasingly relevant as our economic system faces a new challenge in today's environmental exigencies.
On college campuses across the country, and increasingly among the general population as well, people express outrage and anger over our government's attitudes towards the environment. We rail against big business for its unethical and ecologically damaging practices. Yet, as we try to hold to account the larger-scale institutions that ought to be doing better, we should ask ourselves: are we as individuals doing our share to make things better?
Almost every human activity requires external sources of energy. Affluent societies are increasingly dependent upon energy to maintain their lifestyles while developing countries require more energy to improve their standards of living. As both population and GDP have grown across the globe, so has energy use: at present people use about ten times as much energy as in the early 1900s, and this amount is projected to double by 2050 and at least triple by 2100. Most of our energy today — about 85 percent globally — comes from fossil fuels. These fossil fuels pose a danger to our society for two primary reasons: there is increasing evidence that their greenhouse gas emissions are closely linked to serious climate changes, and the sources for this energy pose a dangerous threat to our national security. In the face of increasing energy demand, can we face the daunting task of reducing fossil fuel consumption through alternative fuels and conservation?
As you might have read in <i>The Tech</i> last week, the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) recently submitted their recommendations on divestment from Sudan to the MIT Corporation's Executive Committee (a whopping seven months after they first convened). But what you might not have heard was that on that same day, the issue of MIT's divestment came up in another forum: during the Karl Taylor Compton lecture by Senator Edward Kennedy.
The April 3, 2007 news article about the Department of Defense investigation into MIT's Lincoln Laboratory misstated the nature of the review on which the charges were based. According to the MIT News Office, the review evaluated a piece of software developed by military contractor TRW that was intended for, but never used in, a missile defense flight test. The researchers used data from an earlier test to examine whether the software worked as claimed by TRW. They were not asked to evaluate the flight test.
Science may be close to identifying the biological basis of sexual orientation. Dwight M. Chambers, in his Friday column, argues that a pregnant mother should not be able to alter a fetus in order to stop it from becoming homosexual later in life, offering as a reason the effective genocide of homosexuals; an atrocity which would unfortunately be permitted under current jurisprudence. In fact, the law does not prohibit alteration of a fetus; it even allows its termination under the "right to privacy."
There is wisdom in the old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The Reverend R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is arguing that parents should take advantage of technological advances (hormone therapy) to identify and alter fetuses that will grow up to be gay. We can ill afford to let his ideas stand unchallenged.
You know, it was a major disappointment to hear that Charles Vest would be our Commencement Speaker. Don't get us wrong, we like Chuck Vest — nice guy, good President, did some great things for MIT. But a commencement speaker is supposed be captivating and bring new insight and outside perspective to graduates who are about to enter the real world. Vest has barely left — I mean, he's still a professor here. If you want to hear him speak, go any day of the week, and knock on his office door at 32G-618. Moreover, he was President for the majority of our years here, so we already know him quite well.