Eastern Alumni, Brisa De Angulo, Goes to Inter-American Court of Human Rights: The IACtHR hears the case of Brisa De Angulo Losada v. Bolivia, to further jurisprudence surrounding sexual violence against children and adolescents.

Trigger warning: This article mentions sexual abuse and sexual violence.

Founder of A Breeze of Hope foundation and 2007 graduate of Eastern University, Brisa De Angulo’s has rooted her career in activism and justice for survivors of sexual violence. De Angulo is the CEO and founder of A Breeze of Hope, a nonprofit organization that provides legal, social, and emotional support to people who have experienced sexual violence in Bolivia. A Breeze of Hope aims to “Restore the lives of those who’ve suffered childhood sexual violence by providing them free, holistic support; prevent sexual violence through transdisciplinary prevention strategies​ and promote healthy, comprehensive childhood development​,” A Breeze of Hope stated. 

As a child, De Angulo was involved with her community and flourished in extracurriculars and academics. However, this changed after De Angulo experienced sexual violence within her own family. When De Angulo was 15 years old, her 27 year old cousin sexually abused her repeatedly for eight months. He threatened De Angulo in order to maintain her silence. De Angulo grew detached from her loved ones and her extracurriculars and academics began to flounder rapidly. She developed an eating disorder, dropped out of school and made several attempts on her life. 

After enduring eight months of sexual violence, De Angulo confided in her parents. Together, they sought aid from the police and took the case to court. However, they struggled to find a lawyer willing to defend her case and community members fought to quiet her. Her family’s home was set on fire, threats were made on her life and people tried to run her over with their cars. De Angulo endured three trials in Bolivia, but her cousin has never had to face any repercussions. 

On Mar. 29 and Mar. 30, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) heard the case Brisa De Angulo Losada v. Bolivia. “This is the first time that the IACtHR will hear a case pertaining to the human rights violations of an adolescent victim of incest,” Equality Now stated. 

De Angulo and her legal team are demanding that the government responds more effectively to sexual violence through law and procedure reform, operationalization of justice, development of up-to-date and high quality professionals and services and prevention strategies. Amongst many other goals, the team is focusing on eliminating the statue of limitations on cases pertaining to sexually based offenses. Currently, De Angulo is awaiting the results; however, she continues to raise awareness and further monetary support towards A Breeze of Hope. 

You can learn more about Brisa De Angulo Losada v. Bolivia at www.abreezeofhope.org/

“Despite the threats on my life, I will not hide my name, I will not hide my face, I will not carry the shame that belongs to my aggressor,” De Anglo stated during the trial. 

Source: CNN, A Breeze of Hope, Equality Now

Biden Administration Strives to End Title 42 Restrictions: Title 42 restrictions allowed for increased expulsion of immigrants at the southern border.

The Biden administration has taken action to end the Title 42 restrictions which allowed migrants to be quickly expelled at the southern border. The restrictions had been put in place by the Trump administration in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Biden administration is now intending to return to the original policy which requires migrants to be released into the country. The Biden administration has decided it is safe to return to this policy because of the decrease in Covid cases, the number of vaccinated Americans and new protocols that allow migrants to be vaccinated onsite at the border.

Individuals on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns over the waves of migrants that will be entering the U.S. come May 23. Some Republican and Moderate Democrat lawmakers claim that there is not a sufficient plan in place to correctly manage these migrant waves.

The Biden administration, on the other hand, believes that this policy’s removal is long overdue, and has questioned the actual effectiveness it has on stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Many migrant advocates believe that this policy was implemented with political motivations at its core instead of the true focus being health and safety. Reasons for this theory come from former president Trump’s goal to enforce stricter border security. Any border legislation, restrictions or protocols have stirred up controversy ever since former president Trump began campaigning for presidency.

“Between 30,000 to 60,000 people are estimated to be in northern Mexico, waiting to cross the southern US border, according to a federal law enforcement official,” CNN said. Many of them are not from Mexico but have journeyed hundreds of miles from countries in Central America. It is possible that a maximum of 18,000 migrants could cross the border daily when Title 42 is replaced.

Overturning Trump-era policy has been a chief objective of President Biden who ran on the campaign slogan, “Build Back Better.” Some see this latest move as a purely political move to make a political statement, while others see it as an important step to overturn a policy that was doing more harm than good. A large surge of migrants could cause yet another crisis for President Biden to deal with as the midterm elections approach. At the same time, if the administration handles this transition well, it could give the Democrats a boost at the midterms.

Sources: CBS, CNN, Fox News

March 15 Becomes International Day to Combat Islamophobia: The United Nations General Assembly has approved resolution aimed at combatting religious discrimination.

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has approved a resolution that sets March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has welcomed this approval. 

The resolution has been adopted by the consensus of the 193-member world body and co-sponsored by 55 prominently Muslim countries. As it emphasizes the right to freedom of religion and belief, it has recalled a 1981 resolution that called for “the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religious or belief,” Aljazeera stated. 

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) played a major role in introducing the resolution. OIC wanted to specifically honor March 15. March 15 marks the date on which an armed individual entered two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, resulting in 51 deaths and 40 injuries. Hence, the International Day to Combat Islamophobia also honors the lives of those taken by the mosque shooting in addition to raising awareness towards religion-based discrimination. 

The resolution shows concern towards the increase of discrimination, tolerance, and violence directed at members of religious communities, including cases inspired by Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and Christianophobia. All countries, UN bodies, international and regional organizations, civil society, the private sector, and faith-based organizations are asked “to organize and support various high-visibility events aimed at effectively increasing awareness of all levels about curbing Islamophobia, and to observe the new International Day to Combat Islamophobia,” Aljazeera shared.

Prime Minister Khan has regularly advocated against the rising Islamophobia in his addresses at a multitude of forums and through letters to predominantly Muslim countries. “Today, the UN has finally recognized the grave challenge confronting the world: of Islamophobia, respect for religious symbols, and practices and of curtailing systematic hate speech and discrimination against Muslims,” Prime Minister Khan tweeted. 

“Next challenge is to ensure implementation of this landmark resolution,” Prime Minister Khan further stated. 

Sources: Aljazeera

United States House Passes the CROWN Act: After many years of pushing for policy change, the CROWN Act bans race-based hair discrimination.

On Friday, March 18, The House passed the CROWN Act, with a vote of  235-189. It was largely on party lines with 14 Republicans joining the Democrats. 

The act was introduced by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman. CROWN is the acronym for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair. It specifically bans  “discrimination based on an individual’s texture or hairstyle if that style or texture is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin,” NPR stated. The bill specifically bans discrimination at work, federal programs, and public accommodations. 

“Here we are today, standing on behalf of those individuals, whether my colleagues on the other side recognize it or not, are discriminated against as children in school, as adults in who are trying to get jobs, individuals who simply want access to public accommodations and to be beneficiaries of federally-funded programs,” Watson Coleman said in remarks on the House floor Friday morning.

Congressional action is being taken after many years of advocates pushing for policy change of race-based hair discrimination at the national level. Multiple states have carried out their own versions of the CROWN Act, including Calif. (the first state to enact a ban), N.J. and N.Y.  On March 17, Mass. became the most recent state to pass a local ban on hair discrimination. 

“Hair discrimination is rooted in systemic racism, and its purpose is to preserve white spaces,” the NAACP says. “Policies that prohibit natural hairstyles, like afros, braids, bantu knots, and locs, have been used to justify the removal of Black children from classrooms, and Black adults from their employment.”

This bill will now continue to the Senate for deliberation. The democratic majority in the Senate may not be enough to pass the CROWN act legislation, although the Biden administration has stated it “strongly supports” the bill. 

Sources: NPR, NBC News

Kea-Guffin and Gough Halls to Transition to First-Year Housing Only: A look into Eastern’s housing changes for the 2022-2023 academic year.

In an email sent to students on Feb. 28, Student Development announced to the student body, for the first time, its plan to transition the Kea-Guffin (KG) and Gough residence halls into fully-first year student buildings for the 2022-2023 academic year. This means that any upperclassmen currently residing in KG or Gough will not have the option of renewing their room, and other upperclassmen cannot choose to live in these buildings. 

In the email, Student Development refers to these halls as first year “learning communities”. Residence Life will assign students to “custom groups” that will offer students specific programming to meet certain needs. In the past, first-year students have been integrated into residence halls with upperclassmen, with the exception of Eagle and Sparrowk halls, which have been reserved exclusively for second-year students and above. 

Many students have expressed strong feelings about this decision. On March 8, the Student Government Association (SGA) published a letter to leadership on Instagram, expressing their disagreement with the decision and disappointment that more student voices were not consulted in the process. “I personally believe the culture will change at Eastern; we have already seen a culture change with KG and the maturity level of the students who presently live here and I believe that the culture will continue to change in ways that I don’t think anybody was necessarily expecting,” said SGA Executive president, Xeyah Martin, when asked about the effects he thought all-freshman housing will have on the student body. 

Other students expressed concerns about the housing changes as well. Derek Hamer is a senior and a Resident Assistant (RA) in Kea, and is concerned about the current state of Kea becoming the norm in upcoming years. “There’s a lot of young people running around, and often their choices have no repercussions because there’s no older students setting a standard for how to behave,” said Hamer. Issues like stolen exit signs plagued the mostly first-year housing of KG this year, and residents and RAs alike ponder over what will happen to KG and Gough next year if this behavior continues. 

Junior RA Emily Beck also offered insightful feedback about the housing change. Beck expressed concerns about the well-being of the RAs who are assigned to all-freshmen halls. “My first concern is that I basically lived it this year; I felt so lonely as a junior,” said Beck. When Beck asked residence life if there were plans in place to support older RAs in freshmen halls next year, she was told there are not. Beck also commented that when she was a freshmen, she lived in a hall with other freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, and enjoyed it. If she had an issue she didn’t feel comfortable going to an RA with, she could ask one of the older girls for guidance. Beck is worried about the lack of interaction with upperclassmen freshmen will receive next year. 

Not all students gave entirely negative feedback about the new housing policies. Some students like the ideas behind the change; forming more community within residence halls and giving freshmen more resources to face first-year challenges. “I think if it’s done well, it could be a really good way to introduce freshmen to a form of college living. However, I’m not sure we have the resources to do it well,” one RA shared.

Regardless of student response, Student Development and Housing seem clear in their intention to fully transition KG and Gough into first-year “learning communities” by the 2023-2024 academic year. The effects of this decision on students, residence life staff, and facilities will have impacts, good or bad, on the Eastern University community for years to come.

Ukrainian Soldiers Find New Recruit in Stray Dog: Rambo was rescued from several Ukraine soldiers and serves alongside them in the trenches.

As Ukraine continues to experience terrorization from Russian forces, a unit of Ukrainian soldiers have demonstrated a moment of kindness amidst the conflict. After a puppy was found terrified and abandoned in an open field in Bakhmut, Ukraine, soldiers adopted him as their new watchdog. Soldiers named the pup “Rambo” after the action film series focusing on a Vietnam veteran’s experience. Upon finding him, the tiny pup was so small that he was often held with one hand. However, he has reportedly been growing each day amongst his new owners.

In a popular video, Ukrainian soldiers were seen carrying and nurturing a puppy. “He is our protector, right Rambo? We felt sorry for him. It was freezing outside. We took him into our post and he stayed with us,” a soldier stated in the video. In addition to the emotional comfort Rambo provides, Rambo also provides security by serving as the watchdog for the soldiers. Soldiers explained that dogs are capable of hearing things that humans are incapable of hearing. 

While Rambo provides security to the unit, he also “provided them with hope and happiness during such a difficult time,” Mirror.co.uk shared. Rambo is among several other dogs that have added an extra level of security and comfort inside the trenches. 

Although Rambo might not be able to provide much physical protection beyond altering the unit of potential danger, his value to the unit is nonetheless invaluable as he preserves morale and keeps spirits up amidst such a terrifying conflict. 

Sources: mirror.co.uk, independent.co.uk

SGA President Xeyah Martin Runs For The 185th District: A look inside Eastern’s Isaiah Martin as a person and an aspiring state representative.

Known for his multiple leadership roles on Eastern University’s campus, Xeyah Martin is in the process of running for state representative in the 185th district of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The district, located in the Delaware and Philadelphia counties, includes the following areas: Philadelphia International Airport, Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum, Colwyn, Darby Township, Sharon Hill, Ward 26, Ward 36, Ward 40 and Ward 48. “I’m entering this election to lift up my community, elevate my people, and change the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Martin stated.

As a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, Martin spent the early period of his life residing in south Philadelphia. He was raised by working class parents and spent much of his late adolescence caring for his grandmother with quadriplegia. “My grandmother was my everything; she helped raise me. She was truly my best friend,” Martin shared. Martin chose to study at Eastern University in order to be close to his grandmother; however, she unfortunately passed away weeks before Martin graduated high school. 

Martin grew up in South Philadelphia alongside his family. His love of politics blossomed while taking a civics class in high school, and he always maintained a strong connection with his community. After his mother’s car was found with bullets in the sides, Martin and his family moved to southwest Philadelphia in 2005. Martin reminisced on his early years in southwest Philadelphia as people freely walked the streets with trimmed trees outlining the sidewalks. However, as Martin grew older, he noticed southwest Philadelphia gradually declining. “The neighborhood went down and down. People who lived there moved out because they noticed an increase in violence and school systems failing,” Martin explained. 

Martin’s decision to enter the race for state representative is rooted in the people and experiences surrounding his own life. After the loss of his grandmother, Martin struggled to get involved with Eastern. Martin’s passion for civic engagement was reignited by Theresa Noye, the director of the Goode Scholars program. Noye implored Martin and other Goode Scholars to “show the world who we are; to be that bright, shining star and to help uplift other people,” Martin shared. Likewise, Dr. Sharon Gramby-Sobukwe, a professor at Eastern, influenced Martin’s perceptions on politics. Representative Malcolm Kenyatta helped pave the way for Martin’s current and future success through his advocacy and policies. 

In addition to the people that have inspired Martin, first-hand experiences have also shaped his journey. Martin found his car laden with bullet holes due to a shooting in his neighborhood. Although this shooting did not result in any fatalities, Martin considered the potential destruction of human life that could have transpired. “This could have happened when children were outside, when people were getting off of work. This cannot happen anymore,” Martin emphasized. 

If Martin is to be elected as state representative of the 185th district, his plans revolve around three areas: prosperity, security, and progress. “I look at prosperity, security, and progress as a circle: you can’t have one without the other,” Martin expressed. “The first step toward change is allowing those who have been left behind into our collective share of prosperity. This means expanding home ownership opportunities, as these lead to generational wealth and stronger connections.”

Security encompasses the need to change and reform policing laws. For Martin, this includes mandating the presence of social workers in mental health crisis responses. “Walter Wallace was going through a mental health crisis and he was shot and killed multiple times by Philadelphia police officers,” Martin explained. “This should never have happened, period.” With regards to gun laws, Martin shared his concern that in the state of Pennsylvania it is easier to obtain a gun than it is to purchase a car. Xeyah Martin’s hope is to work collectively to build stronger communities safe from the fear of violence.

For Xeyah Martin, progress requires that we turn away from old ways of thinking and dare to dream a new dream. He sees an opportunity in the areas of marijuana, education and the minimum wage. “I want to legalize marijuana for two reasons: to help release non-violent weed-related offenders, and increase education spending,” Martin stated. By using the tax revenue from marijuana, Martin would funnel this profit into educational spending. Additionally, Martin hopes to increase minimum wage to ensure that resources are accessible. “People need to work, but they also have children. They can’t afford to pay for the $500 a week daycare living on minimum wage,” Martin explained.

Although only those living in the 185th district are able to vote for Martin, there are other ways to support his campaign. More information can be found using Martin’s instagram, Martin’s @xeyahtm, and his website can be reached at: https://xeyforpa.com/

As Martin strives to become state representative, he aims to echo the words of Vice President Kamala Harris: “I may be the first, but won’t be the last.”

A Decision Made: The Supreme Court sides with FBI in a case involving the surveillance of three Muslim men.

The Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the FBI in a case involving FBI surveillance of three Muslim men. However, this does not mean that the case is over and that the three men lost their lawsuit. Instead, it means that the Supreme Court found that FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) does not displace states-secrets privilege, which is what the three men were arguing; therefore, the case will be sent back to lower courts to continue proceedings.

The plaintiffs are: “Eritrean-born U.S. citizen Yassir Fazaga, an imam at the Orange County Islamic Foundation in Mission Viejo; native-born U.S. citizen Ali Uddin Malik, who attended the Islamic Center of Irvine; and Yasser Abdel Rahim, a U.S. permanent resident from Egypt who also attended the Islamic Center of Irvine,” U.S. News shared. 

The plaintiffs are pursuing this lawsuit because they were surveilled for a 14-month period of time from 2006-2007 by an undercover FBI informant named Craig Monteilh. Monteilh professed a desire to convert to Islam and conducted surveillance by recording video and audio inside homes, businesses, mosques, and at events, according to court filings reported by CBS News. The investigation ended when Monteilh began making statements about wanting to take violent action; community members then reported him to the local police and filed a restraining order.

The plaintiffs sued the FBI in federal court, “alleging they were targeted for surveillance because of their religion,” CBS News stated. However, the federal government moved to dismiss the suit because they said that the claims couldn’t be litigated without risking the disclosure of state secrets.

The Supreme Court’s ruling reverses the decision made by the 9th Court of Appeals. The 9th Court had concluded that “the procedures established under FISA regarding the legality of challenged electronic surveillance displace the state-secrets privilege and the district court should have reviewed the materials first to see whether the surveillance was unlawful,” CBS News stated. 

The claims of the plaintiffs have not yet been dismissed and can continue forward in a lower court. The 9th Court of Appeals also allowed the unlawful search claims to continue forward as well, which was not at issue before the Supreme Court.

Sources: CBS News, U.S. News

A Deep History: Insights into the correlation between past conflicts and the present-day conflict among Ukraine and Russia.

In Moscow, Russia, President Vladimir Putin delivered a televised speech from the Kremlin on Monday night, where he repeated his demand that Ukraine must not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  In 2002, Ukraine had formally announced its wish to become a member of NATO.  NATO promotes democratic values and this undermines Putin’s autocratic regime. In case of war, Russia wants a buffer zone between them and the Western countries.

Over the last thirty years, Moscow has, for the most part, successfully blocked the democratic expansion of NATO from Russia’s borders.  However, multiple rounds of expansion by NATO with Post Soviet states would provoke Putin to lash out violently, first by invading Georgia in 2008, then Ukraine in 2014, and now a second, far larger, invasion of Ukraine today. 

 Dec. 25, 1991 marked the collapse of the Soviet Union. In its final years, it comprised 15 Soviet Socialist Republics:  Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. 

In 1999, Poland, Hungry and the Czech Republic joined NATO.   Another expansion came with the accession of seven Central and European countries:  Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.   Although these countries were never part of the Soviet Union, they were regarded as satellite states in the Soviet sphere of interest, referred to as the Eastern Bloc.  The Eastern Bloc was a term that was used to describe a group of Communist nations located in Europe and Asia.  These countries were under the control of the Soviet Union, China, and their allies. 

One can argue that Russia never truly accepted Ukraine’s independence.  On Feb. 21, 2022, Putin recognized the independence of two self-proclaimed states in the disputed territories of eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.  The conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas region started in 2014.  The separatists had been accused of being proxies for Russian interests if not simply Russian soldiers in disguise.  By the end of 2014, Russia had annexed the Crimean peninsula.  The conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas region is therefore framed as a war between Russia and Ukraine as opposed to a civil war. 

On Feb. 24, 2022, Putin launches an all-out invasion on Ukraine, the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II.  Russian missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities.  Explosions could be heard before dawn in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared martial law. “The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now!” President Zelenskyy exclaimed.

The U.S. government offered to evacuate Zelenskyy and his family from Kyiv, but this offer was turned down.  On Feb. 25, 2022, Syria became the second United Nations (UN) member state to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk as sovereign states as Russian forces closed in on Kyiv on Saturday. 

 

Sources: Al Jazeera, AP News, iNews, Journal of Democracy, World Population Review

Third Person Living with H.I.V. Has Been Cured: Scientists’ finding in medicine leads to hope for the final cure of this disease.

On Feb. 8, scientists announced a woman of mixed race became the third person to ever be cured of H.I.V. The process included a new transplant method using umbilical cord blood, increasing the chances of curing people of diverse racial backgrounds. 

The other two patients who were cured of H.I.V. received adult stem cells in bone marrow transplants. Cord blood is more widely available as the patient does not have to be a close match to the recipient. In registries, a majority of donors are of Caucasian origin so, in allowing a partial match, there is the capability to cure hundreds of Americans with both H.I.V. and cancer each year according to scientists. 

The woman also had leukemia and received cord blood to treat the cancer from a partially matched donor. The typical process involves seeking a bone marrow donor of similar race and ethnicity to the patient. In addition, blood was donated from a close relative to temporarily give her body immune defenses during the implantation process. 

 According to researchers, the racial and sexual orientation of this case marks a major step in the process of developing a cure for H.I.V. 

 “The fact that she’s mixed race, and that she’s a woman, that is really important scientifically and really important in terms of the community impact,” said Dr. Steven Deeks, an AIDS expert at the University of California, San Francisco. 

 H.I.V. infection is thought to progress differently in men and women. Women make up over half of the cases in the world but only 11 percent are included in cure trials. For this reason, this case offers inspiration and a new precedent for the field of medicine. 

     This case has also discovered a less dangerous way to conduct transplants with the half-matched cells from her relative supporting her immune system until the cord blood cells became dominant about six weeks later. More than 14 months later, the patient displays zero signs of H.I.V. in blood tests and does not appear to have detectable antibodies to the virus. 

Source: New York Times