War on Misinformation

The War On Misinformation

It's happened before, but it gets a bit scarier when both countries involved are nuclear powers.

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As you may know, India and Pakistan were recently at the brink of war. Why? It starts with (and in) Kashmir.

Kashmir is a state that has a special autonomy from India, partly due to the fact that the region is constantly under a low-threat territorial conflict between India, Pakistan, and China (mainly between India and Pakistan, although the state does also share a border with a region near Tibet that is under Chinese control). Since Kashmir is the only state in India with a Muslim majority in its population, many expected it to be made a part of Pakistan following the Partition of India. However, since the main political outlook in the region (amongst other reasons) aligned with that of India, Kashmir became a part of the Indian nation.

Despite this, the Partition was not a clean break between the two countries. Animosity between them still occurs today, and Kashmir is a hotspot for that tension. Troops from the Indian army constantly guard the border against Pakistan, but all in all, there hasn't been any major (war bringing) conflict recently—aside from the three wars where India and Pakistan fought over the region.

Many of us may have thought (and hoped) that this series of conflicts had come to an end. However, a suicide bomber brought India and Pakistan back to the cliff's edge of war again—an attack on Kashmir on February 14 that India insisted Pakistan had a "direct hand" in. This suicide attack killed 40 soldiers in Kashmir and wounded five. The bomber was a young Kashmiri man who joined a Pakistani terrorist group.

Naturally, India retaliated against the attack, carrying out airstrikes against regions in Pakistan. However, when the media provided coverage of the event, many news outlets were apparently spreading misinformation about the attack and the details of the events. An Indian outlet, Times Now, posted a video clip of a Pakistani jet from 2017, claiming that it was footage of the airstrike. On the other side of things, Pakistani media outlets posted the same video, claiming that it was proof that Pakistan had retaliated against India. In addition to this clip, an Indian media outlet shared a year-old clip of soldiers dancing, claiming that it was a celebration following the strike, as well as a grainy video game clip—claiming to be "exclusive" footage of the attack.

Now, in the U.S., we aren't exactly strangers to fake news. However, consider the fact that two large superpowers—nuclear superpowers—were spreading misinformation about events that could have legitimately led to an all-out war. Information that was spread through social media in both countries, serving to anger the people and cause the general masses to retaliate in order to have their nation save face. If these stories had not been caught as false and quickly debunked, this tragic event that resulted in an almost-war could have easily resulted in all-out war. Even more interesting is the fact that when these stories circled on social media, they were apparently identified as misinformation—but nothing was done to remove these sources from being further spread through the internet.

This begs the question: if the media doesn't fact check themselves and platforms for sharing information don't act on accuracy identifiers, where does that leave the masses in terms of being educated on very real, very concerning current events?

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5 Major Issues Facing The United States Today

And why they are so important
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The Land of the Free. The Home of the Brave.

The U.S. is a country that I have always felt lucky to grow up in. We have the strongest passport in the world, best air-traffic control, a powerful influence in international relations, and a stable-ish governmental system. We haven't had violent governmental upheavals lead by dictators (though we could argue we have a fear-mongering president at the moment). As a white, American, middle-class woman, I can't say that I haven't experienced the comforts and privileges of being an American, and I have been grateful for some of them. It's impossible to ignore the shady stuff that the United States government has done though, including displacing an entire indigenous nation in order to take their land and capitalize on its resources.

When we celebrate patriotism in the United States, we sing our national anthem proudly and cheer that we are living in a "free country." There are five particular areas where, compared to other countries, the United States could be doing a lot better. Love for one's country has to be more than a paltry sense of nationalism or a spirit of competition against other nations. It has to be a willingness to admit the faults of the country you live in and fight for not only the rights of you and your family, but for the rights of all inhabitants of the United States.

Here are only five of the many issues I think the government needs to address to move in the right direction, since it feels like we've been moving backwards since November 2016.

1. First off, the quality of education in America varies widely depending on the location of a school and its financial resources.

According to The Atlantic, one in four American students don't meet the base-level of math competency as observed in PISA surveys where global education is reviewed. The U.S. ranks 26th out of the 34 surveyed countries in mathematics scores. The Socio-economic status of the students and schools surveyed has a lot to do with this low score. Additionally, there is not a clear set of curriculum besides for Math, Sciences, Reading, and Writing courses (as well as gym classes), that seem to be required. Private schools can adjust this curriculum how they see fit. Some schools can't afford to train their teachers to teach AP classes or hire enough faculty to actually benefit their students. Once again it seems like the more money you have, the better education you'll get for your kids. Students in inner city schools are more likely to be educationally disadvantaged compared to those that live in wealthier suburbs.

2. Parental Leave

The U.S. is still one of the only industrialized countries that does not have paid leave for the parents of newborns. Less than 2o percent of employers in America offer fully paid maternity leave. My parents were lucky that my grandmother lived ten minutes away so that I never had to go to an infant day care or anything of the kind as a toddler. Most families go into debt when one of the parents has to quit their job or pay for nannies and day care because they can't earn a salary when they decide to stay home for their children. Countries like Russia, the Netherlands, France, and Spain offer 100 percent pay to their workers and over 100 days of parental leave. The US, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea are the only countries that do not require parents to take a paid leave. Apparently raising families in America is only practical if you're wealthy.

3. Climate Change

With this week's headliner being Trump's pulling out of the Paris Accords, the U.S. is in a climate crisis. The first major anti-environmental awareness move that Trump made was to appoint Scott Pruitt, a known skeptic of climate change, to the head of the EPA. Pruitt believes that putting the federal government in charge of addressing climate change is a mistake, and this moronic thinking is only reinforced by Trump's promises to increase fossil fuel productions in the U.S. in order to make the world better for the American people. Now that he's pulled out of the Paris Accords, an agreement between countries to lower their emissions, Trump is making certain that the U.S. won't have to play by the rules, and this will undoubtedly cause irreperable damage to the environment, and to foreign relations.

3. Mental Health Awareness

This issue is less talked about on the political level in the U.S. We live in a country that is largely dominated by Western, Christian thought, and in more superstitious, less-educated communities, mental illness is no more than a sign of evil in the world with no cure. Many teenagers reach a breaking point when they go away to college, and suddenly realize that they suffer from extreme anxiety, depression, OCD, and other disorders, which can all be easily hidden when they are high-functioning disorders. Sadly, states have cut back funding for mental healthcare by $5 billion between 2009 and 2012. Mental healthcare is the hardest medical service to get access to in the United States, and almost 90 million Americans live in areas where there is a shortage of mental healthcare professionals.



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Brunei's Brutal New Penal Code Punishes Gay People By Stoning To Death

Defining being gay as a crime is appalling; likewise that a country would sentence gay people to stoning at this point in time.

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Recently, many celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John, have taken to social media to urge a boycott of certain hotels. These hotels are owned by the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah. The purpose of the boycott is to protest Brunei's new penal code, which employs overly harsh punishments for acts that are normally not regarded as crimes.

Most notably, people can be stoned to death for having gay sex or an extramarital affair.

More specifically, stoning is used for gay men, while sex between two women is punished by whipping. Adultery, anal sex, and abortion will also be punished by stoning. Other punishments include amputation of limbs for theft and the death penalty for rape or heresy. It's clear why these celebrities are outraged at Brunei's new law.

The news of Brunei's penal code comes as a shock, especially in 2019. The law employs punishments that are very much outdated and easily defined as barbaric. Furthermore, these punishments apply to anyone who has reached puberty, even those who are considered minors by Western standards, and young children can still be whipped as punishment. These punishments are needlessly brutal. Punishments such as the amputation of limbs are irreversible and leave a permanent impact on a person for even a minor transgression.

The actions included in the penal code do not warrant such harsh punishments. Criminalizing sexual identity is appalling, likewise that a country would sentence gay people to stoning at this point in time. This seems to be the main focus of the celebrities who have spoken out against Brunei, and for good reason. While steps have been made worldwide towards equal rights for members of the LGBTQ+ community, Brunei's penal code is a huge step backward.

While it's good to keep the list of hotels to boycott in mind, for those of us who aren't traveling very often, the best thing to do is to speak out and bring attention to the injustice of Brunei's penal code. The penal code was initially delayed by international protest, and spreading the word and making Brunei's law widely known can make the difference in pressuring the country to change the law. This is an issue that requires immediate attention and action.

Brunei's penal code is unjust and a hindrance to the progress being made towards marriage equality and LGBTQ+ rights.

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