Prayer in the Face of Tragedy

Something that always seems to follow in the wake of international tragedies is a collective call across social media for prayers for the victims and those affected by the tragedy. As a not particularly religious person I am baffled when I see posts from individuals who do not normally invoke prayer or a higher power jumping on this bandwagon of sorts.  So, I guess the point of this post is to explore why people look to prayer when faced with tragedies such as those in Paris and Beirut.

The most immediate reason for a person facing tragedy to turn to prayer is a legitimate belief in a higher power and the power of prayer. You can call me a cynic, but I don’t think that it’s working. Prayer doesn’t seem to do anything supernatural or break any laws of physics or cause any sort of substantial change. However, I do think that there might be something to it other than its intended or obvious purpose. Prayer brings people together.

Prayer has the ability to unite the disparate supporters of a tragedy’s victims. All of those who support the victims are able to stand as one through the phrase, “praying for [x, y, or z].” This unity becomes a galvanizing force that allows those showing support for the victims to know who stands with them.

However, there is a possible insidious motive to all this talk of prayer. That is those who use prayer as a way of thinking that they have done something. Some people who say that they are praying for someone or something (and this is not to say all or a majority of those who do, but this is merely a possibility) may at the very least the subconscious level be doing it as a way of feeling like they have done something to help. In doing this they are in essence taking away some sort of actual, physical help that could have gone to the victims if they had done something more than just sending out that tweet or updating their facebook status. This, I believe, is the most insidious aspect of prayer.

So it seems through this analysis as with anything prayer has benefits and negatives. Whether it is being used with traditional intent or as an inadvertent method of unification, or as a more insidious way to divert one’s own responsibility  prayer is becoming increasingly complicated in an increasing complicated world.

Violence In The Caribbean

Violence has occurred in the Caribbean for many years. There are many different reasons that cause violence in the Caribbean; some reasons include inequality and drug trafficking. A large amount of violence in the Caribbean is what leads to large amounts of crime.

Violence and the Caribbean can be linked to drug trafficking. According to the article A Caribbean Crime Wave on the website The Economist “the main force in high rates of crime and violence in the Caribbean is the impact of intra-regional drug trafficking”. In places where there is drug trafficking, often times there is a rise in gang activity. When gang activity and drugs get involved with each other statistics show that there is an increase in firearms because in order for gangs to assert their dominance and protect the drugs they want to sell, they use firearms in order to strike fear into anyone who tries to steal or take advantage of them. In the article St. Lucia Latest Caribbean Paradise Turned to Gang Battleground by James Bargent, he states that local gangs often provide services such as security, transport, firearms, and money. Meaning to say that gangs that are involved in drug trafficking gain a lot of money and through that dirty money they obtain power, since they use some of the money to buy firearms and protect their product. Because of the formation of gangs due to drug trafficking, violence arises because complications form with the trafficking and the gangs are willing to stop at nothing to protect their industry. Thus when problems arise in the industry of drug trafficking gangs will often times use their firearms against other gangs, civilians, and even police; drugs indirectly leads to violence and crime.

Violence in the Caribbean can be linked to inequality. In Deborah A. Thomas’s book Exceptional Violence Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica, she states that “ several scholars have explored they ways genocide and cycles of violence have been linked to patters of colonialism and Zionism and how urban gangs have emerged within communities to take on various kinds of state functions”. Thomas explains that in the case of inequality there is a rise in gang hierarchy that serves to control people through fear. The article Crime and Violence Linked to Poverty in Caribbean by Gloria Kostadinova, she states that poverty and crime/violence are entangled in a vicious cycle. She states that 75.2% of all murders committed in Jamaica involved the use of guns. The social inequality that gangs presents shows that they have more power over regular civilians and could easily control and manipulate them with firearms. These gangs maintain their dominance through fear, and most times they gain this fear through murder. This may often times cause a chain reaction where the murder of one family member can lead to the murder of another as revenge. Thus, because of the inequality that gangs present, violence arises causing more crimes.

In conclusion, a large amount of violence in the Caribbean is what leads to large amounts of crime. Through factors such as inequality and drug trafficking, other factors such as gangs arise that ultimately leads to an increase in violence since gangs tend to have firearms and protect their best interest whatever means necessary. Murders from gangs and everyone involved are often times the act of violence that results in criminal activity.

http://borgenproject.org/crime-violence-linked-poverty-caribbean/

http://www.insightcrime.org/news-briefs/st-lucia-latest-caribbean-paradise-turn-gang-battleground

Terrorist Attacks in Paris

This weekend, we saw ISIS strike with their most recent act of terrorism. The night of November the 13th will go down in infamy after terrorist with bombs attached to them attacked sites throughout the French Capital. Six different sites were attacked just outside the capital. Eight extremists were killed in the bombings, and seven of them were killed due to suicide bombings. At least 128 people were killed and many were left wounded officials said. The victims were wounded from both bombings and fire fights from AK-47s. The worst action came right outside of Bataclan where over 80 people were killed. Victims described this event as a “blood bath” and were terrified for their lives, not thinking they would make it out alive.

When I first received the update of the terrorist attacks on my phone, I instantly thought of what had happened three years ago when the city of Boston was attacked at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Although this event in Paris was much more drastic and extreme than what happened in Boston on that May day. The three people that were killed were made household names throughout the city of Boston, and now with the France mourning their losses, a similar experience will go through Europe.

What next? How will Europe and the rest of the world respond to this issue claimed to be the work of the terrorist group ISIS? And how will the United States become involved to France’s defense. One pro of France declaring war won’t be pressed on the idea of the United States being looked at as a bully of the world going around pushing other countries around. The idea of World War 3 is being tossed around conversations from the people that I have discussed the issue with. France has already made their decisions to retaliate with several bombings in the area of Iraq. Now that the world has seen what ISIS is capable of, they must be stopped and wiped out of the Middle East. Their threat has become too real for having to consider whether or not they could do more damage. It’s amazing to see how this event can spread so quickly over the globe in the span of a weekend. Political politicians have begun to raise awareness to the issue trying to make sure this were to never happen again. As a 20 year old I have never seen an issue spread so quickly. All over every social media the awareness of Paris has taken over, the NFL games this Sunday with moments of silence, and the fraternities on campus have shown their support as well out in front of porches and on houses. Paris will never be forgotten in Europe or this country.

Social media seems to have made a lot of efforts to raise awareness of these horrible events. Is social media a good or bad thing for this cause however? We see how the media today puts these attackers on pedestals and leaves them up to be talked about for months on end. Back home members of ISIS must be looking at what countries like the United States do with their media, and have to be looking upon these bombers as gods. I just think that the media does too good of a job giving these terrorist the time of day. It’s one thing to raise awareness of what happened and make sure others know what happened last Friday night, but on the other hand these men are going to be licking their lips to maybe be on the screens of American televisions all over the country.

 

 

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/paris-terror-attacks

http://radaronline.com/photos/paris-terror-attack-update-shootings-bombings/photo/1226450/

An Ongoing Issue

Racism is an ongoing issue in America that everyone seems to be aware of, yet is cautious to address. There has become an “undefined line” in society where one thing might be considered racist by some individuals, yet seen as okay by others. It has become so ingrained in our lives to the extent that we are not always aware of being racist. Covert racism, or everyday racism, manifests itself in multiple ways like making a seemingly harmless joke or dressing as a certain ethnicity just for fun (Nittle, 2015). These actions are not intentionally racist, but saying that racism is not prominent in today’s society is completely false. There have been recent incidents where college students were punished for having racist parties or wearing racist costumes. However, were they actually trying to be racist or did this racism come as a result of their ignorance?

At Yale University there is a massive ongoing debate regarding racist halloween costumes and themed parties. Before Halloween, Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Committee sent out a mass email to the student body advising them to avoid cultural appropriation when choosing a costume and provided them with guidelines of how to avoid offending anyone. Erika Christakis, a lecturer at Yale, responded with an email of her own after multiple students complained about these Halloween restrictions. She wrote in her email, “Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?” (Friedman, 2015). Even with all the controversy this is causing I have to say I agree with Erika. Halloween is a time for individuals to dress up as whatever they want and have a good time without having to worry about offending anyone.  I believe by warning the student body, Yale made it harder for students not to be racist. They allowed for racism to become a personal interpretation rather than something defined by actions or words. Yes there definitely comes a point where something becomes blatantly offensive, but it is hard to say what is and what is not offensive when we get into this “gray area.”

Furthermore, a fraternity at Yale is being accused of having a “white girls only” party and is currently under investigation. There have been multiple reports of fraternity members denying women from going into a party because they are not “white girls” (Hoover, 2015).  Our society has created a “white girl” stereotype which involves drinking Starbucks, wearing ugg boots and leggings, and, of course, taking selfies. From what I have read, it does not seem that it was taken into consideration that maybe this fraternity was having a party that fit this “white girl” description and the women who were not let in were not dressed properly for the theme. The fraternity is composed of a diverse group of men with different ethnic backgrounds, so it makes absolutely no sense to me why they would deny women of the same ethnicity. It seems that once the race card comes into play, all other pieces of information go out the window and whoever the “offenders” are automatically get blamed.

A similar situation at Gettysburg occurred with a fraternity and sorority having a “ghetto fabulous” themed party. Students wore baggy clothing, sports jerseys, backwards hats, and drew tattoos all over themselves. This portrays the rap culture that our generation is accustomed to seeing on the internet or on the news. However, this theme apparently got misconstrued with being offensive toward black people. But isn’t it offensive to link black people and ghettos with one another? I do not believe that these students intentionally tried to offend any cultural or ethnicity by the way they dressed, but were rather trying to have a fun time, ignorant to who they may have been offending. In order to fix this kind of problem, fraternities and sororities should report their themed party to the Office of Greek Life for approval so there are no discrepancies or misunderstandings between students and the college.

To be honest, I am a middle-class, white student, so I have never been a target of racism so I cannot speak personally about it. Although, it seems that no matter what a person does or says, someone somewhere will find it offensive or racist. Now while I cannot argue how someone sees something or argue how they feel about it, I think racism needs to be more of a topic of discussion. People are always afraid of discussing it because they do not want to be pegged as a racist. Whether you admit it or not, everyone is a little bit racist with their actions, feelings, or perceptions of another race or ethnicity. As more and more people become open to talking about it, I think a clearer definition of what is and is not racist will start to emerge. Progress toward a racist-free society will begin once different races and ethnicities have a mutual understanding of each other.

 

Friedman, Megan. “Yale Students and Staff Are in a Huge Debate Over Offensive Halloween Costumes.” Cosmopolitan. N.p., 10 Nov. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

 

Hoover, Amanda. “Purported ‘white Girls Only’ Fraternity Party at Yale Spurs Emotional Backlash.” Boston.com. The New York Times, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

 

Nittle, Nadra Kareem. “Examples of Subtle Racism and the Problems It Poses.” About.com News           & Issues. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Music and Independence

Similarly to most Caribbean nations, Jamaica’s fight for independence was hard fought. Jamaica had been occupied by European imperial powers since the early 1500’s and by the time they gained independence from Britain in 1962 nearly all sense of cultural autonomy had been lost. Also like many nations in the Caribbean, Jamaican culture was the byproduct of imperialism. It’s people were a melting pot of Natives, imported African slaves, imported Asian laborers and the white imperials. So, coming from a mixed heritage, Jamaica lacked something that was purely Jamaican. Jamaican music from the 1960’s became that thing. Musicians influenced by R&B, Rock n’ Roll, and Jazz created a sound that was uniquely Jamaican that aided in the nation’s re-subjectification to the world and embodied its independence.

Through the 1950’s R&B was the popular music on the island. The people loved it. Most were too poor to buy a radio or record player so one person would bring a large sound system outside on grassy areas and play the latest R&B records. However, everyone liked it so much that Jamaican musicians would essentially just release blatant copies of popular American songs, still not creating anything genuinely Jamaican. At the turn of the decade this changed when Ska hit the scene. There’s no definitive creator of Ska, but it adopted a lot of aspects of R&B and fused it with the rhythm of traditional mento music. Ska took off on the island incredibly quickly. The newly independent nation was hungry for something they can call their own and saw the opportunity for that with Ska. However, Ska turned out to be only the beginning for Jamaican music. By the end of the decade Reggae had taken off on the island. Reggae is famous for its unique rhythm, held down by syncopated guitar strums and its lyrics that preach Rastafarian ideals such a love and peace.

Beyond just being a cool new type of music, Reggae did so much more for Jamaica. Reggae became known as the “voice of the oppressed”, it shared the struggle endured by the Jamaican people with the rest of the world. It was as uniquely Jamaican as the new Jamaican flag and it screamed to the world “We’re here”. This was obviously aided by the emergence of Reggae super star Bob Marley who’s music preached love, equality and peace. Marley would leave this world as a musical icon and probably the best possible ambassador to the rest of the world that the young nation could have ever asked for. The messages in Marley’s music were more than words but an ideology that became synonymous with the island. It’s just crazy to think how after more than 400 years of occupation Jamaica is able to completely re-subjectify itself in less than two decades just because of music.

“If you’re white and you’re wrong, then you’re wrong; if you’re black and you’re wrong, you’re wrong. People are people. Black, blue, pink, green – God makes no rules about color; only society makes rules where my people suffer, and that’s why we must have redemption and redemption now.”  -Bob Marley

 

Sources

http://niceup.com/history/ja_music_59-73.html

http://www.mapsofworld.com/jamaica/independence-day.html

http://www.britannica.com/art/reggae

Climate Change is a Real Problem

It’s hard to believe that some people are under the impression that climate change does not exist. The majority of people that I’ve heard dispute climate change are those living safe and sound in the U.S., a place that does not really experience the devastating effects of natural disaster all the time. I for one have not really seen with my own eyes the horrors that come along with storms: homes destroyed, people dead, families ripped apart. I cannot even imagine these things, but I do know that climate change does this to people, and it needs to be addressed. It is a problem that cannot be ignored any longer, or disputed by those who “don’t believe in it.”

Human activity now and the amount of carbon emissions emitted worldwide, both contribute to costal flooding. Sea levels continue to rise because of the emitted gases. Greenland, Antarctica, and land glaciers contain enough ice to cause nearly 400 feet of sea level rise if all of it melts. Thermal expansion of this added water is what will cause an extreme increase in sea level rise that also brings the destruction of habitats of sea life and homes. In addition, climate change highly impacts agriculture. Even a change in temperature of 2°C may result in significantly lower crop yields in warmer areas that are affected mostly by this change in climate. Global warming is causing temperatures in our world to increase at a rate that plants are unable to adapt to the temperature fast enough for survival.

Poor nations that depend on agriculture as their main source of food already suffer from agricultural difficulties due to climate change. For example, changes in the average and variability of climate affect the hydrological cycles causing either more or less rainfall than normal affecting the land and its ability to grow vital crops. In addition to crops being destroyed, homes are also being devastated by storms. Nearly 10% of the world’s population lives within 1 mile of a coastline. By the end of the century, IPCC estimates that sea level will rise 4- 5 feet mainly due to thermal expansion, resulting in millions losing homes. Majorities of the people affected are now living in areas in the Caribbean. Densely populated cities such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, Egypt, Guyana and many islands in the Caribbean are experiencing devastating floods and droughts that ruin homes, soil, and farmland, mainly due to sea level rise, a direct a result of climate change.

The World Bank website supplies people with knowledge about the dangerous effects due to the changing climate. It is said to say that the world’s changing climate is expected to hit developing nations first and the hardest. It contributes to changes in precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, and poses risks for weather related disasters and agriculture as well as water supply. The World Bank is trying to reduce the effects of climate change by funding projects such as The Forest Development Project, which helps to conserve National Forests; The Mozambique Conservation and Biodiversity project, which conserves woodlands and lakes in Africa; and The Environmental services Project, which works at protecting the globally. These projects and many more work to deal with natural resource management, environmental policy, water use, and biodiversity protection. But it seems like this is not enough to stop the devastating effects of climate change.

I believe that people need to realize that the nations that are hit hardest by these storms are those not contributing a lot to CO2 emissions, which is what affects climate change. Nations such as the Caribbean do not have a carbon footprint nearly as big as the U.S. or China, yet they are affected the most by series of tropical storms and other natural disasters that seem to increase in magnitude and occurrence as CO2 emissions increase worldwide.

I obviously think that the best case scenario would be to cut back on our emissions now, especially for the nations who emit the most CO2.We need to start switching over to renewable sources of energy. Although this seems like a huge investment, we are probably going to have to switch someday anyway when we run our of fossil fuels, or when the air becomes so polluted that it becomes a problem not only for regions such as the Caribbean, but for all regions. We need to realize this is a huge problem for so many people, and although some may not see the devastating effects of climate change, that does not mean they are not there or that we can simply ignore them.

Sujath, Byravan, and Sudir C Rajan. “Sea Level Rise and Climate Change Exiles: A Possible Solution.” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 71.2 (2015): 21-28.

Vermeulen, SJ., et al. “Options for Support to Agriculture and Food Security Under Climate Change. Elsevier. 15.1 (2012): 136-144.

Wenmin, Tianjun Zhou, and Johann H. Jungclaus. “Effects Of Large Volcanic Eruptions On Global Summer Climate And East Asian Monsoon Changes During The Last Millennium: Analysis Of MPI-ESM Simulations.” Journal Of Climate 27. 19 (2014): 7394-7409. Academic Search Premier.

Seeley, Jacob T., and David M. Romps. “The Effect Of Global Warming On Severe Thunderstorms In The United States.” Journal Of Climate 28.6 (2015): 2443-2458. Academic Search Premier.

Maryland, Raghu. “5 Resources Nations Need to Survive a Warming World.” Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 10 Apr. 2015.

A Necessary Evil

There aren’t too many people in the world who don’t enjoy the thought of taking a break from the ‘real world’ as we like to call it. And what better place to do this than the Caribbean- with the warm sun beating down, crystal clear water, and the palm trees swaying in the breeze. In the ‘real world’, the Caribbean is much more than a 24/7 paradise (and if you’re not aware of this, I encourage you to open Google and inform yourself). The Caribbean is a place of poverty, struggle, violence, and a struggling economy. Tourism is an essential ingredient to keep the Caribbean economy operating- bringing jobs and income. But this luxury also has negative effects on the tropical paradise
Many job opportunities come from tourism. Employees are needed to run the hotels, give tours, serve and cook in restaurants, provide maintenance and for many other components that go into making a vacation operational. Unfortunately, the jobs are very low paid, but since the Caribbean lacks a lot of employment opportunities, a low-paying job is better than no job at all.
Water is needed for the services provided to visitors: restaurants, pools, air conditioning, and bathing. Therefore, there is a decrease in the water availability to the locals. The lack of water can cause a decrease in health and hinder natural growth. Agriculture could struggle since maintaining crops requires lots of water.
Tourism can have negative effects on the environment. Cruise ships dump waste into the sea in addition to the oil residues that are left behind. The beautiful blue water that everyone is attracted to struggles to support healthy ecosystems. Coral reefs are a prime example of this as they cannot withstand unnatural chemicals. Additionally, they can struggle from humans diving around and looking at their beauty bringing unnatural chemicals and scare the organisms that are helpful to the reefs’ health. Since tourists come from many different areas, they make the Caribbean vulnerable to invasive species. Whether it is bugs or fruit that is left behind, the species already known to the islands can suffer and even go extinct.
There are so many reasons as to why tourism is an essential component to the Caribbean economy. But we cannot be blind to the risks we may bring. The Caribbean does not seem to be able to live without tourism, but there should definitely be measures as to how they can safely live with it.

http://traveltips.usatoday.com/effects-tourism-caribbean-63368.html
http://jrscience.wcp.muohio.edu/fieldcourses06/PapersMarineEcologyArticles/TourismintheCaribbean.AnE.html

Hope out of the HIV/AIDS Crisis

One of the most dire health emergencies of our time is the crisis of the Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Having claimed the lives of an estimated 39 million people, since the first cases of HIV were reported in 1981 (WHO), HIV/AIDS is undoubtedly one of the worst pandemics in modern human history. In fact, “HIV is the world’s most infectious killer (AIDS.gov).”

Though it is not the region where the most number of cases are concentrated, the Caribbean is one of the most vulnerable areas, if not the most vulnerable, to AIDS/HIV. Already ravaged by rampant crime and poverty, the Caribbean is a sitting duck for infectious disease. As a sexually transmitted disease (SID), AIDS does not simply spread through the air. However, tourists from other HIV-infected nations, such as the United States, who enter the Caribbean, run the risk of further infecting the region, should they interact with another of the Caribbean’s major issues, prostitution. In 2008, the United Nations released a report that stated that heterosexuals who had sexual intercourse with prostitutes was one of the leading causes of the spread of HIV/AIDS (Carribean360). As a result of the lack of basic precautions, adequate government policies, mass crime and poverty rates, and sufficient healthcare, the Caribbean has become a hotbed for widespread disease. This has contributed to HIV infecting an estimated 35 million people worldwide in 2013 (AIDS.gov).

Despite the dire circumstances, there is hope. In 2007, a man named Timothy Ray Brown, a leukemia patient, was cured of HIV in Berlin (Huffington Post). Why haven’t more people been cured? “Brown received two stem cell transplants that knocked out his cancer and transferred the genetic variation to his immune system (Fred Hutch).” From where do these stem cells come? About 1% of Caucasians have a gene mutation that grants them immunity to HIV (Fred Hutch). In addition to the rarity of this immunity, bone marrow transplants are risky and are often only last resorts for cancer patients, due to the risk of the human body attacking what it sees as a foreign disease. Scientists must instead work with what they have. This entails attempting to modify blood cells from HIV patients so that the gene that allows for a “doorway receptor” is deactivated, and putting them back into the patients. As a result of these difficulties and undoubtedly many more, Timothy Ray Brown remains the only human in history to not only be cured of HIV, but remain cured.

HIV leads to many health problems, including AIDS. The scientific community has devoted much time and effort into understanding HIV, which has been known to the world for more than 30 years. Despite all their hard work, scientists are no truly no closer to a “cures” for HIV, AIDS, etc. As we saw with Timothy Brown, this endeavor, at least at this point, may be on an individual level. However, with how rare the immunity to HIV is, the idea of “curing” a person of HIV remains but a vision. Still, the fact that Timothy Brown has actually remained cured of HIV shows that the work by those who cured him can and will work. It is a matter of determining who has the genetic immunity to HIV and then ensuring that when they transfer these cells into patients’ bodies, they accept them and do not endanger their lives. For the time being, however, the challenge for scientists is to manually modify patients’ blood cells.

Even if we are able to figure out how to successfully modify HIV patients’ blood cells and/or who has immunity to HIV, ethical issues will remain. Many will argue that we are playing God by tampering with human genetics. Others will argue, especially if patients who received transplants are made further sick or even die, that it would have been better, had the doctors let nature take its course. Personally, I feel that because of the scale of HIV/AIDS, these risks have to be taken. Obviously much research has to be done, whenever a new proposal is spread, but there will always be risks. The human race is too strong to let itself be wiped out by a pandemic. As has been proven throughout human history, I am confident that we will surmount this health crisis and emerge stronger than ever before.

To learn more about HIV/AIDS, as well as Timothy Ray Brown, check out these sources:

https://www.aids.gov/federal-resources/around-the-world/global-aids-overview/

http://www.caribbean360.com/news/prostitutes-leading-hiv-aids-spread

https://www.fredhutch.org/en/treatment/treatment-research/HIV-vaccine-treatment/timothy-brown-HIV-cure.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mega Events and the Local Economy

Countries around the world are continually vying for the opportunity to obtain the rights to host the Olympics, World Cup, or other international sporting events that garner spectacular amounts of publicity and tourism for said country. These countries are generally forced to construct new stadiums and athletic venues, as their current structures are not equipped to handle such a magnitude of spectators that flow into their borders. The logic is simple and at face value, quite sound, and is also quite similar to the age old maxim, “If you build it, they will come.” By erecting beautiful and vast stadiums meant to attract tourists and investors, the host country hopes that these individuals will stimulate the local economy and help catalyze internal development. But unfortunately, following the games, we find that these stadiums all too often end up vacant and the economy, while enjoying a short spike in positive growth, does not see such notable growth in the long run due to copious amounts of money that has been redirected to pay for construction.

The most recent example of this economic devastation is Brazil. Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2014 and plans to also host the summer Olympics in 2016, a step that policymakers in the central government may have rationalized as a step toward development. For some odd reason, the idea has been circulated around the world that hosting large sporting events are beneficial to the local economy, but in actuality, this is a myth. There’s a huge difference between the way money typically flows through the local economy of Brazil, or any country for that matter, and the way money flows through the economy during the Olympics. Local workers sadly do not reap benefits from the Olympics as much as business owners do. Because the industries that typically capitalize off the Olympics are dominated by national or multinational corporations, much of the new money coming in during the games will not stay in the host city (Manfred).

What economists have found, to shed a somewhat positive light on the matter, is that when countries host the Olympics, or even show an interest in receiving a bid, national exports do rise. This effect is being known as the Olympic Effect on economics, and in a study done on this phenomenon, two economists Andrew Rose and Mark Spiegel concluded that “a mega-event like the Olympics has a positive impact on national exports. This effect is statistically robust, permanent, and large; trade is around 30% higher for countries that have hosted the Olympics” (Rose & Spiegel). But as I mentioned before, even showing an interest in receiving a bid is enough to influence export growth, which sheds light on the impact that politics can have on economics. Seeking a Olympics or World Cup bid is viewed as a step toward trade liberalization and opening up the nation to seek more involvement from international players, signaling further integration into the world economy.

Despite an increase in exports, experts still view hosting a mega event as an unintelligent move for nations that are trying to bolster economic development. The problem underlying the preconception that mega events will help local economies come from incorrect economic predictions. When assessing how much money the Olympics are going to make for a city, economic-impact studies get it wrong because they use normal economic circumstances to assess what will be a non-normal economic event (Matheson). During these mega events, the economy within a region is far from normal, and thus cannot be analyzed through the same industry relationships. Also, cities will often offer up large sums of money in order to be selected to host certain events, which also skews the data. Local incomes do not rise substantially, and instead large multinational corporations, hotel chains, retailers, car rentals, etc. are the main companies that benefit from mega events, also not to mention the devastating human impact that arises when poorer families are displaced from their homes and forced to live in squalor. In the name of development, these host nations are disregarding the wellbeing of their populace in order to increase their international economic and political clout, which is a tradeoff that will cause inevitable problems in the future.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/magazine/does-hosting-the-olympics-actually-pay-off.html

http://college.holycross.edu/RePEc/hcx/Matheson_Multipliers.pdf

http://www.nber.org/papers/w14854

Drug Trafficking and the Caribbean

The United States remains as the largest market for drugs in the world. The insatiable appetite of the American people provides tremendous opportunity for drug traffickers throughout the world. Currently, South America remains as the largest supplier of drugs, namely cocaine and marijuana, to the United States. With increasing pressure on the Southern border of the United States, drug trafficking has transitioned into a more heavy reliance on the Caribbean islands as major transit points. This has resulted in increasing international attention on the Caribbean as a staging point for drug trafficking.

This attention on stopping drug trafficking is also a strong initiative in the staging countries. In Jamaica, police departments are “dispatching more patrols to locations that haven’t seen such sustained law enforcement activity in years” (Coto, 2013). This increase in police activity is designed to remove the organized drug trade, and stifle the free flow of weapons moving in and out of the country. However, this increase in activity is not isolated to Jamaica alone: “the central Caribbean as a whole seems to be coming back into favor with transnational drug cartels, with authorities reporting sharp increases in cocaine seizures” (Coto, 2013). This increased activity is designed to remove the presence of illegal traffickers entirely.

This initiative to disrupt drug trafficking is mirrored by the United States, which continues to suffer from the effects of enlarged drug rings and illegal narcotics. Early in 2015, the United States government established a new 6-point strategy to disrupt the narcotics trade. Currently, it is a popular strategy for drug traffickers to use Puerto Rico as a staging point for transitioning into mainland American markets: “as a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico is a particularly attractive destination for drug traffickers as once the shipments are smuggled onto the island, they can pass into the U.S. mainland without going through customs” (Mofta, 2015). By using Puerto Rico, which maintains close proximity to origin areas, smugglers are able to escape many of the restrictions to sneak drugs into the United States.

This is a very pressing issue for both the United States and the Caribbean. In the Caribbean, as Dr. Williams alluded to in class, many of the smartest individuals in these countries leave their home countries and move to more profitable markets. This ‘brain drain’ is stalling these Caribbean economies, which is also causing other individuals to abandon honest work and education for the monetary benefits of the drug trade. The United States also suffers from this drug trafficking. The illicit drug trade is the most profitable enterprise for many of the organized crime organizations in the United States. By removing this source of income, these organizations would lose much of the power they retain in the United States.

 

Coto, Danica. “Caribbean Drug Trafficking On The Rise.” The Huffington Post. N.p., 4 Nov. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/04/caribbean-drug-trafficking_n_4215050.html>.

 

Moftah, Lora. “White House Targets Caribbean Drug Trafficking With New Plan.” International Business Times. N.p., 16 Jan. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.ibtimes.com/white-house-targets-caribbean-drug-trafficking-new-plan-1786532>.