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Podcast notes: Broader implications

Listened to an illuminating episode of the Global Dispatches podcast recently. The featured guest was Dr. Angela Chang, who discussed a groundbreaking study on the links between vaccines and poverty prevention. This is the first study that looks closely at the non-health impact of vaccines. It’s impressive: the research uses Read more…

Home and the city

I’ve been working my way through Reportage on Crime, an anthology of Nick Joaquin’s true crime stories. One such piece, “The Lodger,” deals with the demographic shift in Manila brought on by the influx of laborers (and their families) from the provinces. I don’t have the same intimate understanding of Read more…

Starbucks cup

The Optimal Starbucks Breakfast

Optimization is the millennial affliction. (There was a trenchant Buzzfeed essay a while back that delved into how this impulse drives our generation to burnout.) Since seeing that insight articulated in plain, stark language, I’ve been more conscious of its truth in my own life. Take today’s breakfast stop at Read more…

Notes from “The Guns of August”

Here’s my first book for this year’s Read Harder Challenge! I first started reading The Guns of August two years ago. “Started,” because work quickly caught up with me, leading to a slow abandonment of the book around the halfway point. That was a shame, since this is–despite the heft and subject Read more…

On “Citizenfour”

Last Thursday, I filed my last articles of 2016 for both jobs. Buzzer-beaters, to be sure, but I celebrated all the same by putting on a movie. There was nothing remotely festive on my flash drive, it was a bit too late to dig up alternatives, and the US Congress’ Read more…

Defining Dictatorship

Last Friday, November 18, the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos secreted his body into the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) for a long-contested burial. The Philippine National Police and the country’s armed forces secured the area, and a chopper from the national air force flew the strongman’s Read more…

What’s the word?

From Peter Hessler’s Oracle Bones, which I also mentioned over here and which I’m still reading: “Peoples of color” sounded awkward if translated literally, so I used the standard Chinese term for minorities: shaoshu minzu. Of course, that was just as odd in English: “small-number ethnic groups.” Perhaps somewhere in the world there was a Read more…

On human rights and drug-related killings

I caught a really thought-provoking interview on human rights featuring the philosopher John Tasioulas recently. Being an (old) episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast, which caters to a general audience, the interview focused on a basic1 question: What are human rights?

Basic, but not simple, since “human rights” has become both a very charged term and, perhaps in some circles, one so overused as to have turned into a bit of a hollow buzzword. Which is why it’s notable how Tasioulas kicks off the interview by first dispelling the, shall we say, “special snowflake” air that has enveloped the concept: human rights are only one kind of rights, he asserts. Now this doesn’t undercut the importance of these rights, but it at least does away with the tunnel vision that they tend to inspire and situates them within a broader category of similar concepts that, he implies, are no less worthy of discussion.

But the dissolution of the term “human rights”‘ definite edges is, like I’ve said, something of a problem. So what distinguishes human rights from other kinds of rights? Tasioulas says: universality, these rights’ applicability throughout humanity.

This is the point I find most interesting, mostly because of personal experience. Ever since it became clear that our new president had won the post, there’s been a disturbing spike in drug-related extra-judicial killings. The number keeps ticking up to this day, and there’s been a lot of debate about the validity and ethics of these incidents.

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