Obama, drone-strikes and human rights

by Chris Bertram on June 5, 2012

I’ve been reading some of Glenn Greenwald’s recent posts with increasing horror as he details the apparent willingness of the US drone campaign to attack events where non-combatants will certainly be present, such as funerals and to try to evade moral and legal responsibility by redefining “combatant” to include any military-age male in a strike zone. I’ve also been monitoring various liberal sites and blogs for signs of a reaction and not seeing much (please correct that impression in comments). Sites that obsess about non-combatant immunity if the people firing the rockets are from Hamas are silent. Blogs that take attitudes to historic human rights violations as a litmus-test of political acceptability, have nothing to say as a liberal American President bombs civilians on the territory of nominally friendly states. Fortunately, I’m not an American citizen, so I don’t have a moral decision to take about whether to vote for Obama or not this year. If I were, I don’t think it would be an easy decision to take. Romney is clearly remarkably close in political belief to Obama, but will be beholden to the crazy Republican right, as Obama is not. That provides people with a reason to vote for Obama. But the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner doesn’t _deserve_ the vote of anyone who cares about human rights, even if, pragmatically they might feel they have to give it to him.

Good and Plenty

by Rich Yeselson on June 5, 2012

 There’s a mordant joke running thru Francis Spufford’s spectacular Red Plenty that can be illustrated in the following story.  A self-taught Armenian monk travels to Oxford to importune the most distinguished mathematician in England.  The monk eagerly presents his findings to the grand Don.  After listening to the monk, and observing some of his formulas, the mathematician says to him, “I have good news and bad news.”  The monk replies, “What’s the good news?”  “You are a genius,” says the mathematician, “and you’ve invented geometry.”  “Great!” says the breathless monk.  “What’s the bad news?”  “Euclid invented it a couple of thousands years before you did.”  (I know, I know—please don’t post comments noting that Euclid didn’t actually invent geometry—the story is heuristic!)

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A recent study by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that women using IUDs and other methods like under the skin implants or Depro-Provera injections were much less likely to have an accidental pregnancy than women using ordinary birth control pills, the trans-dermal patch, or the vaginal ring. (CT readers who are not up-to-the-minute on ladyissues may be interested to learn that the ring is a polymer, well, ring, which is inserted into the vagina, and then releases hormones over the course of three weeks. The birth control type is replaced after four weeks. Another version is used to treat the effects of menopause and has a different schedule.)

The women using the pill etc. were, in fact twenty times as likely to have an accidental pregnancy as the other group. “We know that IUDs and implants have very low failure rates — less than 1 percent,” says Brooke Winner, MD, a fourth-year resident at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the study’s lead author. “But although IUDs are very effective and have been proven safe in women and adolescents, they only are chosen by 5.5 percent of women in the United States who use contraception.” In this case the study provided the various types of birth control at no cost. Worth noting, when the cost barrier was removed, the percentage of women choosing long-acting contraceptives went way up, to 75%.
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