Terrorism, Carbon Dioxide, Pre-Term Birth RatesThe Morning Show
- Jan 12, 2015
TERRORISM CHARGES IN THE U.S. The worst terror attack on French soil in over 50 years concluded Friday with deaths of two brothers (who claimed affiliation with Al-Qaeda) responsible for the mass shooting at Charlie Hebdo magazine. The suspects died when police assaulted a warehouse where they were holed up. Had they survived, they would have likely faced charges of terrorism, just as Dzokhar Tsarnaev does here in the United States. He’s accused of carrying out the Boston marathon bombing. Jury selection is underway in his trial. Tsarnaev’s alleged crimes are a fairly obvious fit for domestic terror charges, says University of Utah criminal law expert Shima Baradaran. Eric Frein’s case is not. Frein is accused of ambushing a police barracks in Pennsylvania last September, killing one officer and injuring another. The terror charges were added to his case only after the investigation yielded a letter Frein wrote to his parents expressing his desire to foment revolution and set the government aright. Once it was clear that Frein’s attack was essentially against the government – or an effort to affect policy – the prosecutors felt they could add terror charges to his indictment. Baradaran says this broadened definition of “domestic terror” is courtesy of the Patriot Act in 2001. While there have been a lot of terrorism charges brought against U.S. citizens under the expanded statute, Baradaran says there have not been any high profile convictions. “I don’t think Congress intended the terrorism statute to be used against Eric Frein and cases like his,” says Baradaran. “What he did could fit, but he was essentially a disgruntled person and the murder charges he already faced were significant, without adding terror to the indictment.” Charging someone with domestic terror certainly “sends a message” and has “political implications” that make people listen up. “It says, you don’t want to mess with the American government,” says Bardaran, explaining why prosecutors are sometimes eager to use the “terror” statute. But that message runs the risk of being watered down if it’s charged too frequently, but there’s no consensus in the law enforcement community about where the line is. “This is a conversation we should be having,” says Baradaran. “Do we want to use the terror statute frequently, or reserve it for cases where it’s clearly warranted and fits the public perception of terror, akin to a Boston Bombing or 9/11 attack?” INTERNATIONAL CONSENSUS ON TERROR IS EVASIVE “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” says BYU international criminal law professor Eric Jensen, explain the lack of international consensus on a definition of terrorism. “The UN has worked for years to find a definition that satisfies everyone and has been completely ineffective.” The result, says Jensen, is lots of international criticism and condemnation for terrorist acts like the shootings in Paris last week, but very little legal action, internationally. “Generally these cases are resolved through domestic legal avenues,” says Jensen, noting that had the Charlie Hebdo gunmen survived, they would likely have been charged with terrorism under French law. Jensen offers another example: Boko Haram in Nigeria, which is a “semi-governmental agency looking to establish a different form of governance in Nigeria.” “Many people will condemn Boko Haram’s acts, but to call it definitively a ‘terrorist group’ is less likely to get widespread international agreement.” “I think you could fairly say that coercion of government by targeting civilians – such as the 9/11 attacks or the Boston Bombing or the shootings in France – are generally considered terrorism by the majority of countries,” says Jensen. But when you get into the fine details of which groups qualify, the differences emerge. Even without an international definition, charges of “terrorism” have been a convenient way for nations to justify international use of force, such as U.S. action in Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya, notes Jensen. “France could be seen as justified in taking action against ‘terror’ as a result of last weeks, attacks.” Why does a bombing in Boston or a shooting spree in France draw international support and solidarity (more than a million people marched in Paris on Sunday, including world leaders) when mass-killing of civilians by Boko Haram in Nigeria does not? “There’s a double-standard,” says Jensen. “It has to do with expectations - people tend to expect that kind of attack in the Middle East or Africa, but not in Paris. And the media – which is largely Western-oriented – places a lot more focus on attacks that occur in the West, which also shapes public awareness. I’m not saying it should, but it does.” FREEZING OUT THE CO2 In the U.S., power plants are the single largest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions – some 38 percent of it, says the EPA. And the bulk of those CO2-emitting plants burn coal. That’s the main reason the EPA has proposed new regulations to cut emissions from coal-fired plants 30 percent over the next fifteen years. The transition requires significant – and expensive – updates to “scrub” the carbon dioxide out of the emissions at existing coal-fired power plants. BYU chemical engineering professor Larry Baxter has developed a process to separate the CO2 from other gases in the exhaust – it would work on any CO2 emission device, including power plants and vehicles. Baxter’s process could be added directly to an existing power plant – “from an economic and practical standpoint that’s really important, that you don’t have to rebuild the power plant.” The process cools the gas down “the same way that snowstorms cool gases.” We form “dry ice flakes, compress them into a solid, then we pressurize them to form a liquid CO2 which you can put into a pipeline and pump it somewhere for use or underground for storage,” explains Baxter. What continues up through the smokestack is harmless nitrogen, adds Baxter. More information is available at www.techtransfer.byu.edu SHELBY EARL: SEA OF GLASS Seattle-based artist Shelby Earl performs “Sea of Glass” live on BYU Radio’s Highway 89. U.S. PRE-TERM BIRTH RATE ON PAR WITH SOMALIA As one of the most developed countries in the world, the United States fares surprisingly poorly when it comes to one key indicator of health: pre-term births. In 2010, the U.S. ranked 131st out of 184 countries on preterm birth rate, according to data compiled by the March of Dimes. That puts us on par – as a nation – with Somalia and behind other so-called “high resource nation” like Japan, Australia and all of Europe. The good news is that CDC figures show the pre-term birth rate in the U.S. has begun to decline slightly, after going up steadily for several decades. “Unfortunately, about half of all pre-term births occur and we don’t even know why they happen,” says Julie Drake, state director of programs for the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes advocates more research into the causes of pre-term births. There are “some causes we can pinpoint,” adds Drake: Women who are uninsured have higher rates of pre-term birth. “If women don’t have insurance they don’t get prenatal care which can determine if there are conditions causing the mom to be high risk and address those things,” says Drake. The popularity of selective inductions and C-sections as a matter of convenience also contribute to the high rate of pre-mature births in the U.S., says Drake. “We are working on that nationwide, to reduce the number of elective deliveries before 39 weeks, because we know that those babies born before 39 weeks are not fully-developed.” Outstanding medical technology gives a pre-term baby born in the U.S. a much better chance of surviving than a preemie born in Somalia, notes Drake. But, pre-term babies can have hearing problems, development problems and intellectual disabilities later on, “so it’s not over when the baby goes home from the NICU. Pre-term babies are also a large financial burden on families and communities.” Show More...