Why the Parkland Shooting can Change the Gun Conversation in the USA

Out of the tragedy of the Parkland school shooting might come some good. You might be sceptical as Americans are used to schools being attacked by gunmen and we’ve heard before that the most recent shooting will change things. Indeed, school shootings are still so common that the Onion runs the same headline every time. Will the reaction to Parkland actually be different though? It looks like it.

FiveThirtyEight has taken a look into why Americans are complacent with students being shot in schools and the American love of guns. They note that people don’t equate gun violence with guns nor understand how better policy could solve America’s gun problem. The good news is that the reaction to the Parkland shooting is different insofar that the conversation around guns and gun control is more direct. The students from Parkland may represent a new movement for finally stopping gun-based violence in the USA. Indeed, it’s remarkable that two weeks after the shooting Americans are still talking about.

Change in America’s love affair with guns is happening. Companies that favoured the NRA are stopping their support and just today a large American sports store made it slightly harder to get guns. Progress is happening!

The characteristics of the Parkland shooting — and the response to it — mean that this incident could be positioned to overcome some of these psychological barriers. Slovic speculated that focusing on restrictions that target the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting, rather than guns as a category, might make it easier for gun owners to psychologically distinguish the gun used in the shooting from the weapons they personally possess. That could create some common ground that leads to banning or at least limiting the AR-15’s use.

The numbing effect of repeated exposure to violence is also enabled by a quick drop-off in media coverage, but the Parkland students’ vivid stories — combined with images, text messages and videos from the attack — could imbue the event with continued urgency and make viewers empathize with survivors in a new way. “Hearing directly from people who have experienced the trauma is understandably very powerful,” said Sandro Galea, a professor of public health at Boston University who studies trauma and firearms.

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More on the FiveThirtyEight podcast.

Flash North Korea for Freedom

Flash Drives For Freedom from Doug Burnett on Vimeo.

The reclusive state of North Korea doesn’t like it when information leaks in or out. The government is propped up by ignorance, fear, and a lack of a viable alternative. They control their population by limiting access to knowledge; North Korea bans free and open internet just like their neighbour China (and ironically as does their opponent the USA). An international organization has been fighting the censorship in North Korea by attaching USB flash drives to balloons and letting them drop randomly in the country. And it’s making a difference.

Believe it or not, USBs are a significant form of sharing information in North Korea. Many citizens have devices with USB ports. So for many years, North Korean defectors have organized efforts to smuggle outside info into North Korea on USB drives to counter Kim Jong-un’s constant propaganda. But these groups were buying USB drives at cost with limited resources. Flash Drives For Freedom is a campaign that travels the world inspiring people to donate their own USB drives. As a collaboration between the Human Rights Foundation, Forum 280, and USB Memory Direct, Flash Drives for Freedom is significantly increasing the capacities of these North Korean defector groups.

Check it out.

Nuclear Weapon Ban Signed at UN

Nuclear weapons are an existential threat to humanity. If they are used in violence it is likely that the planet would enter a period of nuclear winter – meaning that if you don’t die in the initial waves of explosions you’ll die from starvation. Not a good thing to think about.

Thankfully, yesterday 122 members of the United Nations signed a treaty committing them to a ban on nukes. Countries like the USA, France, and other nuke-loving countries didn’t sign it, still it sends a clear message: the rest of the world doesn’t want anybody to use nuclear weapons. The timing of the signing is quite symbolic given what Trump said during his speech at the UN earlier this week.

“The Treaty is an important step towards the universally-held goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. It is my hope that it will reinvigorate global efforts to achieve it,” he added, acknowledging the contributions made by civil society and the hibakusha – the atomic bomb survivors.

At the same time, Mr. Guterres, highlighted the difficult road ahead by recalling that there remain some 15,000 nuclear weapons in existence. “We cannot allow these doomsday weapons to endanger our world and our children’s future,” he said.

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Blockchain Technology to Track Real Blocks

Blockchain technology is changing the world of commerce and law, now it can be used to track real world blocks instead of just digital blocks. The technology got attention thanks to the rise of Bitcoin, which is still going strong, and has been improved since then. More recent takes on the technology like Ethereum have evolved blockchains to be more robust, faster, and malleable for unique circumstances. A new startup, Peer Ledger, wants to use this technology to monitor ethical mining practices.

However, Ms. Jutla says there is mounting pressure from the international community to stop the unethical production of minerals, and she says Peer Ledger’s Mimosi product provides a solution to this problem. Mimosi uses a private permissioned blockchain, which chronologically and permanently logs information that’s copied across a computer network accessed by multiple collaborating parties. When a transaction is carried out, it’s grouped together in a cryptographically protected block. In the case of the Mimosi technology, every transaction involving a source of ore can be linked back to older blocks containing previous sales transactions for the ore. This allows Mimosi users to trace gold and other precious and industrial metals (mainly tin, tantalum and tungsten) from the refiner, to the processor, to the distributor.

Ms. Jutla is confident customers will want Mimosi. Not only does she think the technology will make it tougher for unethical sources of precious and industrial metals to make it into the supply chain, she says it will reduce a client’s compliance costs in this area by 75 per cent.

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Effective Nonviolent Resistance Against Tyranny

Using violence to fight violence isn’t the best approach, instead nonviolent resistance can be used effectively (and less ironically). In this TED talk Jamila Raqib explores what are the best forms of resistance to oppressive entities through nonviolence and how to think about nonviolent resistance. She uses her life experience and connects to the complex research based approach used.

We’re not going to end violence by telling people that it’s morally wrong, says Jamila Raqib, executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution. Instead, we must find alternative ways to conduct conflict that are equally powerful and effective. Raqib promotes nonviolent resistance to people living under tyranny — and there’s a lot more to it than street protests. She shares encouraging examples of creative strategies that have led to change around the world and a message of hope for a future without armed conflict. “The greatest hope for humanity lies not in condemning violence but in making violence obsolete,” Raqib says.

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