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OPINION: Will Smith’s Slap Speaks Volumes about Freedom of Speech

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Andy Witchger via Wikimedia Commons

It’s an event that many have been far too well acquainted with, and if you haven’t, there’s even a Wikipedia page for it now, “Will Smith — Chris Rock slapping incident”. Academy award winning actor, Will Smith stunned millions last week as he walked up on stage during the live Oscars proceedings and went on to hit host, Chris Rock across the face. This came after Rock, an award winning comedian, mocked the appearance of Jada Pinkett Smith (Will Smith’s wife) during his presentation of one of the Oscar awards. 

Immediately after the incident, the public’s takes began piling in, with practically two sides to the conflict emerging, Team Will Smith and Team Chris Rock. The former argue that Smith’s actions were understandable and appropriate, given that Rock had mocked a medical condition (alopecia areata) that Jada Pinkett Smith had been publicly suffering from for years. On the other hand, Rock’s supporters argue that given freedom of speech, the comedian should have the right to say whatever he pleases without any fears of reprisal, be it physical or verbal. And in the middle, there’s a subsection of people who find both parties to be in the wrong, that’s the group I’d most accurately describe myself as a part of. 

Now although this incident only took place last week, the ensuing debate has been ongoing for years prior to it. Does the freedom of speech also include the right to offend? While the nuances behind the matter can be discussed for ages, the answer largely depends on how you wish to see society develop. A society based in harmony would require a persisting element of mutual respect, and that is increasingly difficult to sustain in an environment where each individual is hellbent on maintaining their right to offend the next person, purely for the sake of offending.

We’ve seen this debate take action in the past and will more than likely see it again in the future, and although the severity behind these different instances can vary, the potential for harm remains significantly high every time. Take the Charlie Hebdo incident, for example. In 2012, French magazine Charlie Hebdo published absurdly offensive caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and continued to mock the Prophet in the years to come. A few years later, in retaliation, two gunmen stormed the infamous magazine’s offices killing 12 and wounding 11 more.  

Like last week’s Oscars moment, this incident too began with comedic intent, but ended with the unimaginable. In both instances, an erroneous understanding behind freedom of expression led to damaging and serious physical retaliation by aggrieved parties. However, when I say that freedom of expression should ideally be limited at times for the benefit of societal rapport, by no means does it condone the retaliatory, harmful measures that some take against these verbal attacks. Rather the opposite, if our goal is to construct a society based in harmony, then these violent acts of reprisal do nothing but fuel the conflict further. This explains why Will Smith’s slap and the Charlie Hebdo shooting both did nothing but empower hatred and animosity towards the causes they were seemingly defending. Instead, while we should ideally be practicing watchfulness over how our expressions impact others, our response to these expressions should also be of equivalent caliber, in that rather than using physical force and violence, we stick to argumentation and reasoning to express our concerns. 

While this debate on freedom of expression and its limitations will rage on, it’s important for us to remember to keep people’s feelings in mind, so as to not purposefully inflict undue harm on others. This is just one of many ways in which we can work towards a society based in harmony and good will. 

Like the famous phrase goes, “Your freedom to swing your arm, ends where my nose begins”. Let’s consider this both literally and metaphorically when remembering the memorable Oscars incident of 2022. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

America stands with Taiwan: Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan amid tensions with China

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday, 2nd August despite the strained relationship between Taiwan and China. As a result, the tension between China and the US has also increased.

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America stands with Taiwan: Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan amid tensions with China

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday, 2nd August despite the strained relationship between Taiwan and China. As a result, the tension between China and the US has also increased.

China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory but Taiwan asserts its independence as a self-governing island. Thus China/Taiwan and international relations are very delicate.  If the island is visited by another nation like the US, it suggests a certain recognition of Taiwanese sovereignty. The US does not currently officially recognize Taiwan as an independent country but is still required to help the country defend itself if necessary. 

Before Pelosi’s trip to Asia, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian already warned, “There will be serious consequences if she insists on making the visit [to Taiwan],” but he did not spell out any specific consequences.  “The People’s Liberation Army [PLA] will never sit idly by. China will take strong and resolute measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added. 

As soon as Pelosi visited the island, she tweeted, “Our visit reiterates that America stands with Taiwan: a robust, vibrant democracy and our important partner in the Indo-Pacific.”

In retaliation, Lijian stated, “This will definitely not have a good outcome … the exposure of America’s bullying face again shows it as the world’s biggest saboteur of peace.”

Shortly before her visit, Chinese Su-35 jets crossed the Taiwan Strait, a river bordering the Island with China, with no distinct purpose. Similarly, on the day that Pelosi landed, unidentified hackers cyberattacked the Taiwanese Presidential official website so it could not be accessed. Clearly rattled after her visit, China held its biggest-ever show of military force in the air and seas around Taiwan, which included the firing of ballistic missiles.

Ross Feingold, a Taipei-based political analyst, and lawyer told Al Jazeera that this kind of antagonistic behaviour by China after the visit could be a one-off event but it could also “become part of a sustained pattern of aggression.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Media

Mo Farah’s experiences show the impact of compassion toward the “others”

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Mo Farahs Documentary

While the world spins in a gyre of unrest, a BBC documentary on the life of British Athlete Mo Farah has brought another darker aspect to light. In a 60-minute documentary, Mo Farah, whose name at birth was Hussein Abdi Kahin, revealed he was trafficked into the UK from the former French colony of Djibouti. 

Sharing experiences of his bleak past and his feelings of devastation and alienation in a world that was new to him Farah told the BBC how the conflict in his birthplace of Somaliland forced his mother to send him to his relatives in Djibouti from where his miseries began. While the documentary shows the struggles he went through to make his way in a country far away from home, it also serves as a reminder of being considerate and compassionate toward immigrants and the “others” of a society. 

According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), young kids in countries of conflict, economic decline, and marginalized communities are at higher risk of getting “tricked, forced or persuaded to leave their homes”. They are then forcefully used as work slaves or treated as commodities for sale. 

The International Organization for Migration has also noted that trends in human trafficking are gendered as well. Both men and women are chosen and trafficked to perform certain jobs. It further explains how immigrants can also fall prey to human traffickers as their social vulnerabilities, unfortunately, makes them an easier target. 

As per the most recent figures[1]  available, about forty-nine thousand people were trafficked[2] . These figures, up till 2018, do not include the cases that went undetected because of the lack of resources for identification and screening at borders. 65% of these people comprised women and girls, while 20% of men and 15% of young boys were trafficked from various regions around the world. Since then, however, the state of the world has drastically changed. Covid-19 has put various communities on the verge of financial decline. This, in turn, has increased the risk of people in those communities and countries, trying to find stability and financial security, and falling prey to human traffickers. 

Similarly, after the US pulled its forces out of Afghanistan deserting an already socially, politically, and economically turbulent country. It created a huge influx of migrants towards western nations as well as its neighboring countries, thus escalating opportunities for the unscrupulous to exploit those desperate enough into forced labor.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine is another example of a conflict that has also forced people from both countries to evacuate to a safe place. In these types of situations, vulnerable, people and especially children become an easy target.

While the victims are forcefully exploited for work, they continue to live in visually civilized societies. The biasedattitude of people towards the “others” of society renders them unnoticed. These biases are fed to people through electronic and print media. While stereotyped accents and professions make it difficult for immigrants, refugees, and the apparent “aliens” of society to find their place, it also increases the chances of victims of child and human trafficking to continue being under the shadow of their oppressor. 

The trauma of fleeing an area of conflict, or forcefully being removed from one’s home makes it difficult for victims of human trafficking and refugees to play an active role in society. But as proven by Mo Farah, when proper attention and care is given to even those who seem “misfits,” they can become an asset and inspiration to a whole nation.

A boy separated from his mother at a young age, was able to return to her years later as Knight of the Realm and honored by Her Majesty the Queen, and all because of the decency, care, and humanity shown to him by his early education teachers.


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All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

‘Don’t forget them’: millions of Afghans face hunger, economic crisis 

International aid workers share stories of children and families struggling to make ends meet

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“Winter is coming.”

That’s how Ammar Ammar, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, describes the situation in Afghanistan. The current hunger crisis, the result of a collapsing economy and drought, will only get worse if the country doesn’t get help, he says, especially in the colder months when people also have to stay warm.

“It’s not Game of Thrones here, it’s reality.”

Almost a year after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the world has become silent about the plight of the country and its people, who are facing one of their worst humanitarian and economic crisis in decades.

After the fall of Kabul, the international community declined to recognize the Taliban regime. Countries paused foreign aid and imposed sanctions. The United States also froze billions in Afghan state assets.

A country that had become reliant on external aid was left on its own. In the process, millions of Afghans were abandoned, too.

On a recent lunch break in Kabul, Ammar saw two girls, one about six years old and the other about three. One of them was lying down on the sidewalk, while the other was squatting next to a big nylon bag. They’d been collecting pieces of scrap metal on the streets to make ends meet. 

“You could see that they were exhausted,” Ammar said. “You are going for your break and at the same time you can see two kids on the street, where they have no break at this age. It strikes you.”

And there are thousands of children like them.

“We are doing a massive job,” Ammar says. “But the sad reality is we can’t help everyone at the end of the day.”

A woman in Qala-e-Naw, the capital of the Badghis province recently told the UN-run World Food Programme (WFP) in Kabul how she made ends meet after her husband died five years prior. 

“In the past, she said, she had a fair life, just getting by cleaning and washing for other people. After the economy collapsed, families have no money anymore to pay her and her work dried up,” said WFP spokesperson Philippe Kropf in an email. As a result, she borrows money to buy food, going further into debt.

“She told me she has not been able to buy cooking oil for weeks. She eats bread with tea and sometimes rice,” he said.

Afghanistan abandoned


A young man told Kropf that “his family went to sleep many evenings without anything to eat in the past months.”

“They borrowed food with neighbours, but increasingly the neighbours have nothing to share,” he added, noting the young man had only completed second grade and was trying to find labour jobs to make ends meet. “But these jobs are getting rarer and rarer because of the collapse of the economy, too.”

The man participated in a training program to gain skills such as tailoring or mobile phone repair to earn a livelihood. The program trains 200 men and women over six months, during which participants receive food assistance for their families. 

“After the training, (the young man) hopes to either open his own little shop, sewing clothing for men and children or to find work in a tailor shop and work for a salary,” Kropf said.

Prospects of famine remain

With the country reeling from recent droughts, and facing high inflation, a difficult situation is becoming even worse.

“For the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities, marking the shifting face of hunger in the country,” Kropf said, noting some people are seeking help from WFP for the first time in their lives.

“The scale of the crisis in Afghanistan is immense, and needs continue to outpace available funding,” he added. The WFP needs nearly US $1 billion by the end of 2022 to help 18 million people – nearly half the population of Afghanistan.

Of that, the group urgently needs US $172 million to secure 150,000 metric tonnes of food to support 2.2 million people in remote parts of Afghanistan, which can get cut off by ice and snow in winter.

“We need these even more urgently because of the long lead-times for food commodities that we need to buy internationally,” Kropf said, including vegetable oil and specialized nutritious foods. “We need to get them into (the) country and then drive them into the mountains.”

The lack of funds in state bank accounts means civil servants aren’t being paid regularly, companies are shutting down and ordinary civilians face restricted access to their own savings.

Prospects of famine remain, said Ammar, noting that the main indicator is farming, which most people depend on to make ends meet. Farmers say climate change is resulting in less food production, resulting in extended periods when people don’t have adequate access to food.

Need for international aid

At the end of June, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit southeast Afghanistan, killing      over 1,000 people and causing damage the International Rescue Committee described as “catastrophic.”

“This earthquake is a catastrophe for the people affected, but the response to the wider crisis in Afghanistan remains a catastrophe of choice for the international community,” said David Miliband, the group’s CEO and president in a release at the time.

“While humanitarian aid has averted famine for now, policies of economic isolation, the halting of development funding, and the lack of support for Afghan civil servants are unraveling the two decades of development progress that western leaders vowed to protect.” 

He noted that families across the country face unemployment, leading to lower demand among local businesses which in turn leads to further job losses. He called for the international community to urgently provide funding to the country as well as “the phased and closely monitored unfreezing of assets.”

The question of frozen assets

Advocates for Afghanistan have criticized U.S.’s decision to freeze a portion of the country’s assets and decried a proposal for the U.S. to use some of them to support families affected by 9/11.

Afghanistan’s assets rightfully belong to Afghanistan, said Zubair Iqbal, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington. 

However, while unfreezing the funds would help bring immediate help to alleviate Afghanistan’s crisis, the country will need more support in the long-term, said Iqbal, who previously worked at the International Monetary Fund for more than 30 years.

The solution is to grant foreign aid to Afghanistan in a sustainable way to allow recovery, while managing its spending through an independent entity, he said.

Concerns around a proposal in the U.S. to use some of the Afghan assets to support families affected by 9/11 prompted a group of Afghan women to write an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden in February.

“Taking funds from the Afghan people is the unkindest and most inappropriate response for a country that is going through the worst humanitarian crisis in its history,” the letter reads. “It is the squeezing of a wounded hand.”

Freezing the assets from the Taliban was the right decision, said one of the signatories in an interview, but they belong to the Afghan people and must be released to address the humanitarian crisis. 

“My expectation from the international community is to put serious attention on Afghanistan,” said Roshan Mashal, former deputy director of Afghan Women’s Network, who left Afghanistan after the takeover and is now a fellow at the University of Texas at Arlington. 

She called for coordination on how countries engage with the Taliban and to support the country’s people, as millions of Afghans face hunger and economic crisis.

“Don’t forget them,” she said.


All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Politics

Indigenous Abuse in Catholic Canadian Residential Schools- Who is to Blame?

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Study period at Roman Catholic Indian Residential School Fort Resolution Northwest Territories 14112957392

Starting from the 1880s and up until much of the 20th century (till 1998) more than 130 Residential Schools which were created by the Canadian Government and supported by Catholic Church conducted a cultural genocide of indigenous children in Canada. 

Around 150,000 children of ages as young as three years old used to be forcibly separated from their parents and made to live in the residential schools where they faced physical, sexual, spiritual and psychological abuse. 

Children were forced to assimilate into the white Canadian culture and they were not even allowed to speak their native language.  The idea was to kill the native from within those children. 

Ever since the 1970s, the unmarked graves of children suspected to have died due to disease, neglect or other causes while in these residential schools have been found from time to time, a recent of 200 plus such graves of indigenous children were discovered last year.  

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada have reported that graves of thousands of children have been found over the years.  They were buried on the school premises and parents were not even informed or their dead bodies were not sent to their homes apparently to save costs.  

Over the last 50 years there have been demands of an apology from the Catholic Church by the survivors of these schools and the families of the children who went through this dark period. The recent visit of the Pope to Canada is in fulfillment of one of the action items demanded by the survivors of these schools and other indigenous leaders. 

The Pope visited the site of a former residential school and apologized for the involvement of Catholic Church in government sponsored “projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation” during his current dedicated trip to Canada called as penitential pilgrimage.

“Understanding that survivors will each have their own vision of reconciliation, for many, anything less than an apology that includes an unqualified admission of the crimes committed, a full acceptance of responsibility, and a commitment to end the abuse and make full reparations will be just another empty apology and continuing injustice for First Nations, Inuit and Metis,” said an indigenous leader. 

The Pope in his speech offered apology multiple times  in different ways and said “I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” He added “May Jesus be preached as he desires, in freedom and charity.”

Reacting to the apology, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada said, “a lot of mixed emotions at this point, where some people are happy with the visit and the intent and [others don’t] want to hear about it at all.”

“When he talks about the atrocities that the churches did on our people, he didn’t use the word ‘sexual abuse.’ … That’s what happened. It happened. And why did he not say that?”, a residential school survivor commented.  

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

Is Cryptocurrency the Hedge Against Inflation?

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With the world in economic turmoil through wars, food insecurity, gas and energy prices skyrocketing, some have been flocking to cryptocurrencies as a hedge against inflation.

Cryptocurrency, a digital currency, is an alternative payment form which is created through encryption algorithms. It functions as both the currency and a virtual accounting system. A cryptocurrency wallet is needed to use cryptocurrency, which can be cloud-based, on a computer or mobile device. 

Cryptocurrencies are still very new and the market for these currencies are very volatile with the risks still being studied. Because cryptocurrencies are not regulated by a third party and do not use banks, they are uninsured and typically difficult to convert into tangible currencies. As they are technology based and intangible assets, they can be hacked. These currencies are not stored in a bank, but a digital wallet, so if that wallet is lost then the entire crypto investment is lost. 

Although many people looked to cryptocurrency as an inflationary hedge, the crypto market seems to be dropping instead of rising. In June, one of the most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, dropped by 40%, bringing it down to a low of below $18,000. Another popular cryptocurrency, Ethereum, dropped by almost 50% last month hitting a low of nearly $900.

High inflation will likely rise into 2023, through the Fed’s interest rate hikes, continued conflicts abroad and supply chain disruptions. It still remains to be seen how the rising inflation will continue to affect cryptocurrencies, but experts believe the market will continue to be volatile.

In theory, cryptocurrency was seen to be uncorrelated with the stock market, and looked at as an asset similar to fine art or precious metals. However, the crypto market has increasingly tracked with the stock market. This past May, a stablecoin, known as Terra, crashed, bringing down $400 billion in crypto market capitalization in just a few days.

Chief operating officer at Defi lending protocol Euler and a former trader at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Brandon Neal, shared his thoughts saying Crypto is too young of an asset class to know for sure how inflation will affect it. He said “It might not have necessarily been true that crypto was a good inflation hedge. It may have just been coincidental and that, up until now, crypto merely looked like it was a good inflation hedge.”

Bitcoin was launched in 2009, giving us only 13 years worth of data during a period of historically low interest rates. There is no way to tell how the market will respond to changes in global circumstances. 

The managing director and senior research analyst at D.A. Davidson, Chris Brendler, believes that Bitcoin could be a good hedge against inflation over time, due to the fact that it is decentralized and not tied to any central bank. At the same time, he says the current speculation and volatility in crypto markets is overpowering bitcoins value as it is still a new asset. 

Brendler said “If there’s a lot of money printing going on, bitcoin should hold its value [over time],”. “What we don’t know is how much of it is speculation, and we’re continuing to see that come out. I think it will be proven over time to be an inflation hedge, but not this time.”

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, had been a proponent of cryptocurrencies in the past, especially Bitcoin and Dogecoin. At one point, he even allowed customers to use Bitcoin to purchase his company’s electric vehicles, although later suspended that option citing environmental concerns over Bitcoin mining.

Back in February 2021, the price of Bitcoin went skyrocketing when Tesla announced a $1.5 billion cryptocurrency investment. However, on Wednesday, Tesla sold 75% of its massive Bitcoin stake amid a severe slump in the cryptocurrency markets, furthering the fall of the cryptocurrency. 

Whatever your thoughts on cryptocurrency, before converting real dollars into cryptocurrency, one should make sure to understand how it works, how to exchange it and where it can be used. One should also be sure to do research into choosing a well known digital wallet that is right for them. Lastly, have a backup strategy, in case your computer, mobile device or wherever you have your wallet stored is lost or stolen. Without a back up plan for a lost device, the entire cryptocurrency investment will be lost.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Human Rights

US House of Representatives Passes Respect for Marriage Act

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Marriage Equality Act vote in Albany NY on the evening of July 24 2011 photographed by the Celebration Chapel of Kingston NY

The United States House of Representatives passed a bill titled the Respect for Marriage Act, which gives federal protection towards same-sex marriage. The bill calls on overturning the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The action comes after arguments that same-sex marriage should also be overturned like Roe V. Wade, which was recently struck down by the Supreme Court. 

The Respect for Marriage Act will now move on to the divided Senate, with the White House urging they pass. Press Secretary Karin Jean-Pierre stated that President Joe Biden “believes [the bill] is non-negotiable and that the Senate should act swiftly to get this to the president’s desk.”

However, a large majority of Republicans oppose the bill, with an outcome of 267-157. Republican representatives have voiced their support for Justice Clarence Thomas, that same sex marriage should be overturned, stating that Democrats will delegitimize the Supreme Court. That being said, surprisingly 47 Republicans within the House of Representatives voted in favor of the bill, indicating a possibility of further bipartisan support. This could be due to the fact that 70% of Americans support same sex marriage, according to Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, which could be a potential indication towards the gradual shift of opinion in Republicans. 

But the overall outcome of the bill ultimately remains unknown. In order for the bill to pass within the Senate, Democrats would need the support of ten republicans to avoid a delay. If provisions allowing same-sex marriage are to be overturned by the Supreme Court, states will be allowed to restrict same-sex marriage. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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