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Narrow focus on New Delhi incident misses scope of India's rape crisis

December 20, 2012 03:43 PM

It is for good reason that New Delhi, the capital city of India, is being hailed by the national media as the "rape capital" of the country. On Monday evening, after a movie trip with her male friend, a 23-year-old-woman was raped and beaten mercilessly in a moving bus by five men, while her friend was battered for protesting. They were stripped naked and were thrown out of the moving bus. The woman now is now battling for her life in a hospital; her damaged intestines had to be removed to prevent gangrene. Angry protesters have taken to the streets and online social media to vent their ire. This year alone, close to 600 rapes have taken place in New Delhi.

India’s National Crime Records Bureau data for 2011 states that 37,929 people were arrested on charges on rape. Five per cent of those arrested were released before any trial. And for those that do go to trial, the rate of conviction is distressingly low. New Delhi is worst by nearly every measure.

By Tuesday, a shocking video was circulating across social networking sites: a news channel camera recorded a car full of men leering at the young woman journalist from the same channel, who was, at that time, reporting about the gang-rape from the streets in New Delhi. With the car's license plate number in hand and the men captured on camera, would they be arrested for violating India’s indecency laws? Unlikely, as the NCRB data shows.


Conn. shooting a reminder of the dangers of gun ownership

December 18, 2012 05:20 PM

The slaughter on Friday in Newtown, Conn., brought back to tragic life scientific data about the danger of firearm ownership long buried by the gun lobby. All three weapons used by Adam Lanza to murder his mother, 20 elementary school students, and 6 teachers before taking his own life were owned by his mother. They were an AR-15 type Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle and two semiautomatic handguns — a 10-millimeter Glock and a 9-millimeter Sig Sauer.

Part of why this tragedy should continue to make us sick until we have some semblance of gun control is because we were warned in a landmark 1993 study in the New England Journal of Medicine that gun ownership in and of itself is a huge risk factor for dying by the gun. In a study of three counties in Tennessee, Ohio, and Washington state, researchers from several universities found that occupants were nearly 3 times more likely to be killed in a homicide if guns were in the home.

The risk for women nearly quadrupled with a gun in the home. The vast majority of victims were — like Lanza's mother — killed by a relative or someone known to them. When the study was published, lead author Arthur Kellermann told the media, “The risks of keeping guns in the home substantially outweigh the potential benefits in terms of safety.’’ Kellermann added, “We did not find any evidence of a protective effect of gun ownership, even following forced entry into the home or actively resisting an assailant.’’

But the National Rifle Association defeated science, claiming the scientists were “looking at the wrong data set,” and then of course, threatening to defeat any politician who dared to have a sensible discussion.

Back when the study was published, the authors reminded readers that there had been other studies that showed that “a gun kept in the home is far more likely to be involved in the death of a member of the household than it is to be used to kill in self-defense.”

Contrary to the denial of the NRA, if we do not know what the right data set is after last week — 20 children dead — we never will.

'Conflicting facts' about Newtown shootings were really unverified rumors

December 17, 2012 11:30 AM

By Juliette Kayyem

There is a saying in emergency management circles that is worth repeating today as the news of the horrors in Newtown, Conn., gets revised, revisited, and completely rewritten. It goes something like this: When the phone call comes in at 2 a.m., go back to bed for 15 more minutes at least. Chances are whatever you were told in the breathless initial moments of a tragedy is false; and if it is true, you may need that extra 15 minutes of sleep.

Of course, it doesn’t work that way as we saw even on Friday. It was the prompt arrival of first responders that seems to have finally led Adam Lanza to take his own life. He had enough bullets left to cause more misery -- hard as that is to imagine after the death of 26, including 20 boys and girls just 6 or 7 years old.

But as I watched too much television and listened to too much radio over the weekend, I recalled that cautionary saying about the unreliable content of initial reports. As a former homeland security official who now writes opinion columns, I found myself wondering: Why do so many media outlets say that there are “conflicting facts” about what unfolded? It is wrong to describe unverified fragments of information as "facts." Actual facts are not conflicting.

The truth of each story about -- for instance -- the shooter's mother, her status at the school (or lack thereof), the order of deaths, or the heroism and courage people at the school showed is not likely to be known for some time. Over time, each nugget of information that is unearthed must be challenged and then ultimately put into a narrative that makes more sense than some notion that everything is “conflicting.” Yet, especially early on, the demand for facts places an unbelievable burden on authorities trying to investigate to come up with some narrative where there are none; the failure to do so does not mean that authorities are hiding the message. It means that they need that proverbial extra 15 minutes.

Time is not on a reporter's side, I understand. But to say that changes in a story suggest “conflicting facts” is just not accurate -- and allows misconceptions to persist. For years, until the full story was told, we thought the Columbine killers were goth figures, bullied throughout high school. The truth was nothing like that, and it takes time to figure this all out.

But there is another reason why the “conflicting facts” narrative was disconcerting: It made me (and likely others) focus on the minute details of an incident that can't be grasped through its details.. A gun-crazed mother, a difficult son, a recent divorce, mental disorder; etc, etc, etc. Here’s my takeway: So what? All of these little pieces of information have the capacity to drown out the big picture: A young man, with many guns, killed too many people. The only detail that matters is the number 26.

Connecticut mass killing must spark gun control push

December 14, 2012 01:55 PM

More souls were lost in the school shooting in Connecticut today than in all terrorist attacks combined on United States soil since September 11, 2001. I say this as someone who has worked in homeland security since that time. I don’t take the threat from terrorism lightly. I know that many more Americans may very well be dead but for the effort to protect ourselves and our homeland.

After 9/11, we revamped laws, refocused efforts, and realigned bureaucracies. We altered the way we think about the Constitution and the way courts were willing to interpret it. We closed our borders, started two wars, and essentially changed our notion of the government’s obligation to protect its citizenry.

Shouldn't the same discussion happen now, in the wake of these horrible deaths? The White House’s response today was a punt on a serious discussion. I suspect, goodness I hope, that Obama will force gun control legislation and the need for it to the top of the agenda by later today. Even if this means delaying a legislative push on immigration reform — a hope that I have written about often — then he should do it. We have every capacity to learn from this tragedy. Today is the day to discuss these topics. This is about our homeland; more than anything, as we see today, it is about our homes.

On International Human Rights Day, wars over natural resources must be addressed

December 10, 2012 03:41 PM

Over the last four days, three activists in the Philippines have been murdered in killings apparently linked to their opposition to mining projects. Rolando Quijano, a farmer who had opposed mining and logging proposals, was shot on Friday; two anti-mining activists, Cheryl Ananayo and Randy Nabayay, were killed later the same day.

As the world observes International Human Rights Day on Monday, such stories are still distressingly common in the developing world, as the pursuit of natural resources fuels an ongoing campaign of violence against indigenous opponents.

The killings — in India, the Philippines, Ecuador, Mexico, and other countries — have been happening for years, often with little international outcry or response. This year, however, there is something the Securities and Exchange Commission can do to reduce such atrocities: the agency can fight to preserve a new disclosure requirement aimed at forcing companies that manufacture goods with “conflict minerals” from Africa to disclose their use.

ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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