Environmental Justice for All in Gowanus, Brooklyn

Environmental Justice for All in Gowanus, Brooklyn

By Lindsey Alpaugh, RightsViews staff writer. Gowanus became one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in New York City in the 2010s, famous for its Whole Foods, art scene, and the canal. The Gowanus canal is a historic industrial site, hosting a combination of toxic chemicals and CSOs (Combined Sewage Outflows). The chemical and industrial pollution was so bad that in 2010, the Gowanus Canal was designated as a Federal Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This designation began a $500 million clean-up effort, which involved dredging contaminated sediment from the canal.  Despite these environmental hazards, the neighborhood experienced an influx of wealthier new residents. From 2000 to 2013, the average home value in Gowanus increased 145.78%. What does environmental justice look like in a gentrifying, formerly industrial neighborhood that sits in a flood zone and is home to one of the most toxic waterways in the United States?  The Gowanus canal first became an industrial zone by the mid 19th...
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What the Storming of the U.S. Capitol tells us about Contemporary Human Rights

What the Storming of the U.S. Capitol tells us about Contemporary Human Rights

By: Noah Smith, RightsViews Staff Writer January 6, 2021, will live in infamy as the day American citizens defiled the United States Capitol. A day in which violent insurrectionists brandished the Confederate flag in the Capitol’s hallowed halls, sacked the empty Senate chamber, attacked and killed Capitol Police officers, and called for former Vice President Mike Pence’s execution. All in a miscarried attempt to forcibly overturn the results of the 2020 United States presidential election. Five people died and more than 140 were injured. The atrocities of January 6, 2021, will leave an indelible scar on the conscience of our nation, reminding us all that democracy is fragile and human rights even more so. In the aftermath of the Capitol attack, prominent conservative voices largely downplayed its severity. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) expressed his anger at the perpetrators just hours after the attack, stating “some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters. They were masquerading as Trump supporters and...
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SCOTUS Set to Abort Roe v. Wade?

SCOTUS Set to Abort Roe v. Wade?

By guest contributor Apurva Ambasth, an undergraduate student of B.A.LL.B.(Hons.) at NUSRL, Ranchi, India. The announcement of the Supreme Court on May 17, 2021 to take up the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization caused quite a stir. The case deals with the constitutionality of the Gestational Age Act, the 2018 Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Court has stated that it would be dealing with the issue “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional?” The hearing of the case would commence in October and the Court is likely to deliver a judgment by spring 2022. This move is a direct, lethal threat to the landmark judgment of Roe v. Wade which guarantees the constitutional right to abortion throughout the United States.  The District Court of Mississippi and the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit both being bound by the precedent held that states cannot ban abortions before the fetus becomes viable,...
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Rerouted, Rerooted: Oral Histories of Syrian-Armenian Refugees

Rerouted, Rerooted: Oral Histories of Syrian-Armenian Refugees

By Larissa Peltola, Editor, RightsViews.   The Armenian Genocide, which took place 106 years ago, today, claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians. While people around the world are now more aware of what occurred in 1915, following a global push for recognition of the genocide, few are aware of the lasting implications of the genocide which have carried on to this day. HRSMA alumna Anoush Baghdassarian (‘19) and Pomona College graduate Ani Schug (‘17) have undertaken the important and necessary work of collecting the oral histories of Syrian-Armenian refugees - the descendants of genocide survivors - to keep the memories of those who have perished alive. What was the Armenian Genocide?  Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who coined the term genocide, was moved to do so after hearing about the systematic annihilation of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Before WWI, Armenians - in what is now Turkey - totaled over two million. But by 1922, there were fewer than...
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The Neoliberalization of Academia: Why the Columbia University Graduate Workers Strike is a Human Rights Imperative

The Neoliberalization of Academia: Why the Columbia University Graduate Workers Strike is a Human Rights Imperative

By Noah Smith, RightsViews staff writer and a graduate student in the human rights MA program. The opinions expressed in this article are Noah’s own and are not representative of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) or Columbia University.  Thousands of graduate students and student workers at Columbia University began striking on March 15, 2021 after many stalled negotiations with school administrators. A strong majority of student workers, 96%, voted  yes to authorize a strike and with a  deadline of March 15, 2021. The Graduate Workers of Columbia University (GWC) and all those in solidarity call on the university to agree to a fair contract. According to GWC bargaining committee members, the strike is a last resort after years of unsuccessful negotiations with university representatives, and assert that withholding their labor is the final means of forcing the university to recognize their demands. Columbia University has had a long and tumultuous history in regards to treating graduate workers as employees....
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Student Debt Forgiveness is a Human Rights Issue

Student Debt Forgiveness is a Human Rights Issue

By Noah Smith, RightsViews staff writer and a graduate student in the human rights MA program. Americans owe over $1.7 trillion in student loan debt and the Federal Reserve projects that 31% of all U.S. adults have student loans. House and Senate Democrats have frequently implored President Biden to forgive up to $50,000 of federal debt through an Executive Order, an action Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has articulated Biden should take during his first 100 days in office. During a recent CNN town hall, an audience member asked President Biden what actions his administration will take to forgive up to $50,000. He quickly responded by stating “I will not make that happen.” President Biden has given several reasons for why he does not support large student debt forgiveness, namely, he believes such action would disproportionately benefit students who go to “elite” private colleges. “It depends on whether or not you go to a private university or public university,” he said...
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The Will To Work: Women’s Labor Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The Will To Work: Women’s Labor Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

By Kelly Dudine, a staff writer at RightsViews and a graduate student in the Human Rights MA Program   Globally, girls and women are simultaneously among the most overworked and most impoverished populations. Entire economies thrive due to the unrecognized and undervalued labor of women, including household work, care work, and informal and low-wage labor.  During the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, girls and women stand to lose even more. Women in varying levels of employment are now struggling to maintain dignified work, and many fear the loss of income more than the pandemic itself. “During the first lockdown, all the artisans were tense about not having enough orders to work and feared not getting paid,” said Rosna Kafle, Chair of the Kopila Valley Women’s Cooperative in Surkhet, Nepal.  The Cooperative employs some of the most vulnerable women in the community with work as tailors and weavers. Before the Cooperative, many of the artisans were unemployed, or performed hazardous work, like breaking stones or...
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NeuroRights: The Need for Human Rights Guidelines for Neurotechnology & AI

NeuroRights: The Need for Human Rights Guidelines for Neurotechnology & AI

By Noah Smith, RightsViews staff writer and a graduate student in the human rights MA program.   On January 29, the Institute for the Study of Human Rights hosted Rafael Yuste, Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, to discuss the proposal from the Morningside group led by Yuste (Yuste et al., Nature 2017) to add new human rights articles to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to protect mental privacy, personal identity, personal agency, equal access to cognitive augmentation, and protection from algorithmic biases. The event commenced with moderator Lara J. Nettelfield, Senior Lecturer, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, introducing Rafael Yuste who began his presentation by discussing the fundamental biology of the brain as well as why we must study neuroscience in relation to human rights. The brain, which is composed of roughly 100 billion neurons, is what generates all of our cognitive and mental abilities. If we understood how this organ worked, we would recognize the mind...
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Then They Came for Me: A Call for Jewish Support of #BlackLivesMatter

Then They Came for Me: A Call for Jewish Support of #BlackLivesMatter

By Anna Miller, a staff writer at RightsViews and a graduate student in ISHR’s Human Rights MA Program. Note: this piece addresses antisemitism in the United States only, though it exists worldwide. As a Jewish person born and living in the United States, my knowledge is primarily based in this country.  The Jewish people are no stranger to hatred and violence. Jewish history is marked by thousands of years of antisemitism, centuries of forced diaspora, and a boiling point of bigotry that led to the Holocaust. Today, antisemitic hate crimes and speech have reached a new high in the United States. In 2019, the Anti-Defamation League reported 2,107 antisemitic incidents, the highest number on record since ADL began tracking such incidents in 1979 (ADL).  Due to their acute familiarity with discrimination and injustice, Jews tend to be active in social justice movements and speak up about human rights issues. Notably, Jews marched in civil rights protests in the 1960s and were vocal about...
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  Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights: Repeal FOSTA-SESTA

  Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights: Repeal FOSTA-SESTA

By Noah Smith, RightsViews staff writer and a graduate student in the human rights MA program.  In 2017, President Trump signed into law two highly controversial bills projected to make it easier to reduce illegal sex trafficking online. The House bill known as FOSTA, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, and the Senate bill, SESTA, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, have garnered bipartisan support as well as praise from misguided celebrities and was hailed as a landmark victory for sex trafficking victims. However, since the FOSTA-SESTA’s conception it has done little to target and reduce online sex trafficking and conversely threatens to increase violence against the most vulnerable within society, specifically queer sex workers and sex workers of color.        Opponents as well as critics of the bill have articulated that it doesn’t appear to do anything concrete to target illegal sex trafficking, but rather targets a longstanding “safe harbor” rule of the internet: Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act....
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