Our Globalist Constitution

I had the good fortune of being published in the student newsletter of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association (AILA), where I discuss the surprising international spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its Framers, including concerns about global public opinion, the privileging of foreign relations, and conforming to international law. Needless to say, this has considerable relevance to this day.

Please click this link to read the source, since I cannot upload documents here. I welcome any feedback and discussion!

Many thanks to those who supported and encouraged me through this process, from colleagues and professors to loved ones.

Reflections on a Decade Graciously Well Spent

Around this time in 2010, I graduated from Florida International University with a double B.A. in international relations and political science. I had vague plans to either work at a think tank in D.C., enter the U.S. Foreign Service, be an international lawyer, or even some combination of the three.

But year after year, I kept stalling for one reason or another, mostly to do low self esteem, my comfort zone, and personal finances. In that time, I wandered through a disparate path, including a job at the county health department, a semester studying philosophy at Miami-Dade, an unpaid internship at an NGO, and three years in marketing (of all places). I also became a freelance writing, using the skills I learned in school for something totally contrary to my supposed goals.

To be sure, I was content and grateful — in far better shape than the vast majority of humans — but I did not feel fulfilled.

It remains surreal to reflect on where I am now, and how unspeakably lucky I am. I had lost hope on ever being a healthy long-term relationship, let alone the wonderful marriage I am infinitely fortunate to have. I am about to enter my last semester of law school at University of Miami — something I never thought I had the skills or courage to do — and gotten to see and do so many amazing things I missed out on in undergrad due to that same crippling self doubt. I am loving my legal work and finally found my calling in life, hand’s down.

Speaking of which, my psychological hangups have largely been contained as well, due in no small part to the support of an endless list of loved ones, colleagues, and peers, most of all my incredibly supportive wife, who was one of the main catalysts for finally getting into law school. The amount of patience, goodwill, and encouragement from a multitude of people in and out of law school has been overwhelming, humbling, and impossible to pay back.

Most of all though, I’m just lucky to be alive for another year, and to have enjoyed a steady and happy life from literally day one. So many people never make it to another year — hundreds of thousands still don’t pass their first birthdays — and yet I’m not only here, but remain in that elite fraction of our species that enjoys unparalleled privilege, opportunity, and hope.

It goes to show how much I owe my fortuitous decade to the kindness and charity of others, both known and unknown, and how much can change in just one year, let alone ten. Whatever you yearn for, don’t let up. I know it’s easier said than done, especially in hindsight, but there is no real alternative in my (privileged) view.

Here’s to another year of building myself up to pay it all forward, with all you wonderful folks there to make me hopefully, happy, and forever grateful. I wish you all a great year and decade ahead.

A Decade of Peril or Progress?

It has been a challenging decade for humanity, with environmental catastrophes, lingering economic malaise, and ascendant political and religious extremism prompting protests across dozens of countries (many of them ongoing as we speak).

Yet it was also a decade of immense and irrefutable progress, a powerful sign of what we can do even amid crisis, chaos, and disunity, after 250,000 years of slowly grasping towards a more moral world.

Every single day in recent years, another 325,000 people got their first access to electricity, more than 200,000 got piped water for the first time, and 650,000 went online for the first time.

As recently as 1981—the decade many of us were born—42 percent of humans were in “extreme poverty”, defined as living on less than about $2 a day. Now that portion has plunged to less than 10 percent of the world’s population.

Every day for a decade, newspapers could have carried the headline “Another 170,000 Moved Out of Extreme Poverty Yesterday” or “The Number of People Living on More Than $10 a Day Increased by 245,000 Yesterday.”

Famine used to be routine and linger for years, but the last officially recognized case occured in just one part of one state in one country, South Sudan, and lasted for only a few months in 2017.

In our parents’ lifetimes, diseases like polio, leprosy, river blindness and elephantiasis were rife; now they are on the decline, with the WHO announcing the near-eradication of polio in all but three countries.

Global efforts since the start of the century have turned the tide on HIV/AIDS, which has slowed in both transmission and mortality, the vast majority of infected having access to drugs.

In the mid-20th century, half of humanity was illiterate; now, around 10-15 percent are, down from 18 percent in 2010.

Child mortality has declined from 43 percent two hundred years ago to less than four percent today. (Even in 1950, one out of five infants and children under five were dying.) Just over the last decade, the rate went down by more than one percent, meaning around 1.5 million fewer kids are dying before the age of five.

Obviously, there still remains appalling levels of death, misery, violence, and suffering, far more than their should be given our economic and technological resources. But these achievements show that progress is not linear and that we’re capable of great things as a species. Here’s to keeping this unprecedented momentum going into the next decade and beyond.

Source: OurWorldInData.org

An international study found that just eight countries — all but one of them in Asia — are responsible for about 63 percent of all plastic waste in the oceans:

China
Indonesia
Philippines
Vietnam
Sri Lanka
Thailand
Egypt
Malaysia

An unspoken factor that most of these countries have in common: They have been turned into the world’s factories, as mostly Western firms have outsourced some of their most polluting and resource-intensive manufacturing plants to poorer countries that generally lack regulations and/or rule of law.

Most of the nations are also literally the world’s dumping grounds: Much of our garbage — particularly plastic — is shipped to China, the Philippines, Malaysia, and others for recycling, though they cannot always handle the volume.

In a strange way, this deluge of waste also indicates progress: All the countries have a burgeoning middle class — China’s alone is bigger than the whole U.S. by several hundred million — and that means catching up with Western-style consumption and waste, for which they lack the infrastructure and resources.

This is yet another example of why environmental degradation must be addressed at a global level. Just as our trade, commerce, and economic activity transcends borders, so do the waste and resource scarcity they produce. We can’t ship our garbage and pollution to poorer countries and expect them to handle it on their own. Like it or not, we all depend on the same oceans, atmosphere, and resources.

Note: Nigeria and Bangladesh round up the top ten. The U.S. is the only rich country in the top 20, and while it is by far the largest, it also has the most resources to address the issue.

Source: Bloomberg

How the World Views China, Russia and the U.S.

Researchers at Pew asked populations in different countries about which countries they saw as their biggest allies and threats.

Nearly a quarter of Americans saw Russia as the country’s greatest international threat, which put it on par with China.

One in ten Canadians named Russia as their greatest threat — but one in five said the same about the U.S.

The number of people who see Russia as the greatest threat has decreased as Putin has helped the country achieve more visibility on the international scene. Across 25 nations, 42 percent of people believed that Russia had become more influential globally; more than half of Americans concur.

Of course, this didn’t mean more people seeing Russia more positively: With the exception of India and Turkey — at 15 percent and nine percent, respectively — no more than four percent in any country named Russia as their most dependable ally.

As for China, the majority of people in most countries agree that its influence on the world stage has grown considerably, in particular seeing China as the world’s biggest economic powers alongside the U.S.

But only a median of six percent considered China their most reliable ally, compared with 27 percent who named the US.

Moreover, China is considered a threat by many neighbors: 62 percent of Filipinos, half of Japanese, 40 percent of Australians, 32 percent of South Koreans and 21 percent of Indonesians. Among the last two, the perception of China has worsened, though among the Japanese, it has gotten better.

In Canada, 32 percent of people saw China as a threat, the biggest figure for any state there.

Finally, as for the U.S., things are rosier than one would think. Many countries saw the U.S. as their biggest ally, including China’s neighbors (South Korea at 71 percent, the Philippines at 64 percent and Japan at 63 percent). Unsurprisingly, Israelis are the most enthusiastic in this regard, at 82 percent.

The caveat: Though large numbers of Canadians, Australians, and South Korean saw the U.S. as an ally, many also saw it as a big threat, making the country’s place in the world more polarizing.

Source: TRT World

Earthrise

On this day in 1968, the photo known as “Earthrise” was taken by the Apollo 8 crew, consisting of commander Frank Borman, navigator Jim Lovell, and rookie Bill Anders.

Better known as the first time humans had visited the moon, via ten lunar orbits, the mission led to an unexpected iconic photograph.
“We have astronauts on a spaceship in another place, looking back on this beautiful planet with another heavenly body in the foreground—it’s stunning. It checks all the boxes.”


After looping around the moon three times and taking several photos of its surface, the crew famously greeted citizens of Earth during a Christmas Eve broadcast. On their fourth loop later that evening, they encountered something that totally surprised them: A striking view of home sliding out from behind the moon like the sun over Earth’s horizon.

It’s all the more remarkable when you consider that Apollo 8 — at that point the biggest rocket ever built — could have been a disaster. It was initially delayed due to hardware issues, but was pushed to December under the fear that the Soviets would beat the U.S. first (as they had seven years earlier when Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space).
The crew was basically “riding a controlled bomb that had not been completely checked out, inside a spacecraft that had not been tested to everyone’s satisfaction.”

But not only did it go off without a hitch, but it produced an image that dramatically highlighted “the paradoxical context in which we exist: Our planet is simultaneously cosmically insignificant, and the most important thing we share as a species.”

National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry describes it as “the most important photograph ever made” and likens it to humanity seeing itself in a mirror for the first time.

“When something happens like that, it speaks to us on a level that we don’t maybe fully understand You can’t—as an artist, as a photographer, as a writer—you can’t necessarily predict it. It just happens. And that’s kind of the magic of art, isn’t it? We create things as human beings that speak to people in different ways.”

Source: National Geographic

The School Under the Bridge

A shopkeeper in Delhi, India has been running a makeshift school for hundreds of poor and homeless children beneath a metro bridge for over eight years.

“The Free School Under The Bridge” was founded and run by 49-year-old Rajesh Kumar Sharma, the sole breadwinner of his family of five who operates a small grocery store nearby. He dropped out of college without completing his bachelor’s due to his family’s poor financial condition.

His idea started with just two local children in 2006, and has now grown to over 300, including slum dwellers, ragpickers, rickshaw-pullers and beggars, most of whom live nearby.

Sharma believes no one should be deprived of education due to poverty or denied his or her dream, so to that end he dedicates over 50 hours a week to the children — for free.

“I am driven by my selfless goal of educating these poor and underprivileged children whose smile is more than enough for me.”

He now runs two shifts: one from 9-11 AM for 120 boys and the other 9-4.30 PM for 180 girls, aged between four and 14 years. The open house school has the Delhi metro bridge as its roof and five blackboards painted on the wall, with some stationary such as chalks and dusters, pens and pencils. The children sit on the ground covered with carpets and bring their own note books, which they often share or study with in groups. The location is relatively far from traffic, and passing vehicles hardly get noticed by the students.

In addition to a standard curriculum, Sharma also teaches students practical skills like hygiene, which is difficult to maintain in such abject poverty. He’s installed separate toilets for boys and girls.

Fortunately, his example has attracted seven other volunteer teachers from the community, as well as some support from locals.

“Some people visit the school occasionally and distribute biscuit packets, fruits, water bottles and packaged food. Some youngsters celebrate their birthdays with the children, cut cakes here and have food together by sitting beneath the bridge. “Such occasions make them feel that they are also the part of the society no matter where they live or what background they belong to,” he said.

In addition to teaching full time while running his shop, Sharma also ensures students get enrolled into the nearby government schools. He ensures hey devote sufficient time to their education and conducts attendance; if a student is frequently absent, he checks in with their family.

“Sometimes, some children get absent for days as they have to assist their families due to extreme poverty. No child wants to discontinue his or her studies but they also have to make their ends meet. “They come to my school fighting hunger, extreme poverty, adverse weather and sometimes resistance from their families. They all dream big. You can see the smile on their face while they study here,” he said.

Source: Hindustan Times

The 2019 Human Development Index

The United Nations published its latest Human Development Index (HDI) rankings—using data from 2018—which is calculated based on three categories: Life expectancy, education, and per capita income. (Read the official announcement here.)

A country scores a higher HDI when its people live longer, have higher rates of education, and enjoy higher gross national income (GNI), adjusted for local purchasing power.

Norway and Switzerland are once again No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, while Ireland, Germany, and Hong Kong have risen to round up the top five. The U.S. ranks a respectable 15th.

However, note the second through fourth columns, which adjust the scores based on inequality. While countries may have an overall high rate of education, life expectancy, and income, how these benefits are shared among the general populace will vary.

Hence, Hong Kong would descend 17 places down if inequality were taken into account; the U.S. would drop by 13 points. Conversely, egalitarian Japan would climb 15 spots from 19th place, while the Czech Republic and Slovenia would also rise significantly.

Norway uniquely would remain in the same spot even if you adjust for inequality. Switzerland would drop just one point.

How Globalization Vanquished a Scourge of Humanity

On this day in 1979, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) certified that its efforts led to the global eradication of smallpox, the only human infectious disease to date to have been completely eradicated.

This millennia-long scourge of humanity was responsible for 300 million deaths in the 20th century alone, and even in the early 1950s an estimated 50 million cases occurred worldwide annually, with a mortality rate of about 30 percent.

Like so many examples of human progress, this remarkable achievement was a product of globalization and international collaboration.

The Chinese developed the earliest recorded form of inoculation in the 16th century, and possibly as early as the 10th century. Smallpox scabs from the infected would be ground up and blown them up the noses of healthy people. They would then develop a mild form of the disease and become immune to it. While 0.5-2.0 percent would die, this was far less than the usual 20-30 percent rate of a full-blown infection.

It was not until centuries later, in 1796, that the true vaccine was developed by English physician Edward Jenner. Shortly thereafter the British and Spanish governments implemented vaccination programs both at home and in their colonies worldwide.

The first regional effort to eradicate smallpox was made in 1950 by the Pan American Health Organization founded in 1902 by the U.S. and eleven countries in the hemisphere. The campaign succeeded in wiping out the disease across the Americas in all but four countries.

The first global effort came in 1958 at the urging of Russian virologist Viktor Zhdanov, who called on member states of the WHO to act. At the time, smallpox was still killing 2 million people every year. After initial delays and failures, in 1966 an American-led international team was formed solely to eliminate smallpox, and one year later the WHO contributed $2.4 million annually to the effort, utilizing a new disease method advocated by Czech epidemiologist Karel Raška.

The WHO established a vast network of consultants who assisted countries in setting up surveillance and containment activities. Initially, vaccines were donated overwhelmingly by Russia and the U.S., but by the early 1970s, more than 80 percent of all vaccines were produced in developing countries.

The Antarctic Treaty

On this day in 1959, twelve countries signed the Antarctic Treaty, the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War, which set the continent aside as a scientific preserve, allowed for freedom of nonmilitary research, and banned all military activity (including nuclear tests).

Official flag of the Antarctic Treaty

Impressively, the first countries to sign on were the Soviet Union and the United States, as well as all the countries that had official territorial claims over the continent. After entering into force in 1961, the Treaty helped keep Antarctica neutral, and has been honored to this day, making it one of the most successful treaties in the world.

Competing, but unrealized, claims over Antarctica.

There are now 54 members states, most of which maintain research stations throughout the continent. The Antarctic Treaty has since expanded through a series of agreements governing everything from environmental protection to mineral rights. A monitoring body based in Buenos Aires, Argentina ensures compliance while facilitating further consultations and developments.

It is yet another understated example of international law effectively at work!