Fourth quarter blog post

Here is my fourth quarter blog post

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Was Publishing the New Edition of Charlie Hebdo a Good Idea?

Last Wednesday, there was a terrorist attack on the offices of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. The magazine has in the past published images that seem to be poking fun at the Prophet Muhammed, and although these could have been offensive, the writers were exercising their freedom of speech. Obviously the offense that the terrorists took should have been expressed in a judicial situation, not through a massacre, no matter how offensive the pictures were. What is surprising and frightening to me, though, is that the magazine published another edition today with a depiction of the prophet Muhammed on the cover in protest of the attack. Although they have the legal right to do this, a week after 12 people were killed in a terrorist attack against the magazine is in my opinion a dangerous time to do this and is putting people's lives at risk.

The attack was last Wednesday in the morning, in which three gunmen entered the Charlie Hebdo building and killed security guards as well as certain employees for the magazine such as cartoonists and writers. On the way out they killed several policemen who were attempting to stop them. Twelve people were murdered in total this day.  That night, one of the suspects turned himself in, but the two others were missing. The police began a manhunt overnight, and on Friday found and killed the two terrorists. That night Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack.

This is the cover of the edition of Charlie Hebdo published Wednesday. It depicts the prophet Muhammed holding a sign that says "I Am Charlie". Although I completely agree with the cause of the "I Am Charlie" protests, I am worried about the danger that could result from the publication of this issue.

That same day, there was a separate attack that Al Qaeda has not claimed responsibility for. This was the attack on a kosher store in which nineteen people were taken hostage and four of them were killed. I don't believe it was a coincidence that this happened right after the attack on Charlie Hebdo, because the murderer in the store probably decided to go through with his plan of killing people because of the "example" set by the horrible terrorists that attacked Charlie Hebdo.

 I think publishing a new edition of the magazine with a depiction of the prophet Muhammed on the cover Wednesday may not have been the best idea. First off, Al Qaeda may organize another attack, but this surely was predicted by the writers of the magazine and they must have assumed this would only be putting themselves in danger. Unfortunately, this actually could be putting others in danger as well, because another Al Qaeda attack could spur another group or individual like the man at the kosher store to do an attack similar to theirs. This attack could hurt anybody, not just the people who have made the risky decision to publish this new edition.

Despite how dangerous I believe publishing this new edition was, I do agree with the "I Am Charlie" movement that supports freedom of speech. I just hope that this publishing of the new edition does not spur on any more attacks, and that people in France as well as their freedom of speech will remain safe from harm.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Death With Dignity

A few days ago I watched an episode of the popular medical show Grey's Anatomy in which a patient  with a terminal illness requested assisted suicide from her doctor. It was a big controversy on the show, since her doctor agreed with it but according to Washington law she needed to get a signature from another doctor, and was having trouble obtaining this. Eventually she did get the signature, because another doctor realized that someone with a terminal illness who is suffering and will suffer more and more until their death should have the right to die with dignity. This practice of allowing death with dignity is now legal in 4 states: Montana, Vermont, Washington, and Oregon. It should be legal in every state though (with certain conditions, of course) because in cases of terminal illness, having the option to end your suffering is a right.

In Vermont, Washington, and Oregon, the law regarding assisted suicide is that the patient has to be least 18 years old, have an illness that only allows them an estimated six months left to live, and give two oral requests to their psysician that are 15 days apart along with one written request. The psysician needs to get a second opinion from another doctor on the terminality of their patient's illness as well as another doctor's evaluation that the patient is mentally competent to make this decision. If all of this checks out, the patient's doctor can prescribe them a lethal dose of medication which the patient can self-administer whenever they want. (In Montana, there are no specific laws on assisted suicide yet but it was ruled as legal in the state Supreme Court)

I think that with all of these restrictions, there is nothing wrong with physician-assisted suicide. The protocol helps ensure that the person really is dying of a terminal illness and that they are not making this decision because of a treatable mental illness by getting the second opinion from another physician.  The protocol also guarantees that the patient has enough time to think through this decision to make sure that they are sure of it and do not regret it when it is too late.

Having the option to end your suffering when you are dying of a terminal illness is a right. As long as all of the conditions remain in place, I fully support laws allowing physician-assisted suicide. It is cruel to deny someone this right because they would be forced to suffer and die in pain when they could die with dignity.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Was North Korea Really Behind the Sony Hack?

Over Winter Break, I watched the movie The Interview on On Demand. This Sony movie is a comedy about two men attempting to assassinate Kim Jong Un, the ruthless leader of North Korea. The Interview isn't just any comedy though, since there was a huge amount of conflict regarding it being released to theaters, mainly caused by Sony being hacked by the mysterious "Guardians of Peace". The question now is, who were "Guardians of Peace"? The most likely possibilities seem to be the North Korean government or Sony insiders such as former Sony employees. In my opinion, the second option is far more likely than the hack coming from North Korea given the evidence that has been released to the public.
When "Guardians of Peace" hacked Sony, they first leaked large amounts of Sony's private data. This included offensive emails, top employees' salaries, and illicit movie downloads. After this, the hackers went on to email Sony threats against releasing The Interview in theaters: "We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places The Interview be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to...Remember the 11th of September 2001". This threat is what made Sony give "their blessing" to theater owners who did not want to show the movie,  and eventually what made the company cancel the whole theatrical release in the U.S. But then, the hackers seemed to change their mind, and gave Sony the green light to release the film as long as the death scene of Kim Jong Un wasn't "too happy". Strangely, an anonymous source reported to CNN that the hackers also sent an email that was the exact opposite of this one, as it threatened against any sort of release of the movie to any media source. Clearly either someone is posing as the hackers in one of these emails or the hackers are sending Sony mixed messages, it is unclear about which of these is the case. Sony eventually decided to release the movie to 331 theaters on Christmas.

Many people, including the FBI, claim that the hackers were North Koreans. The evidence the FBI gave for this conclusion was that the malware used for the hacking was similar to malware used by North Korea in the past. But this malware has been released a long time ago, so it could have been used by anyone anywhere to hack Sony. Also, according to independent IT researcher Scott Borg, the skill level of hacking in North Korea that has been observed is not good enough for them to pull off a hack like this. Also, I believe that the name the group has given themselves, "Guardians of Peace", shows that although they clearly were not being peaceful in anyway by threatening a 9/11 attack, they may have falsely believed that they were protecting peace by not allowing the movie to be shown because North Korea could retaliate against the movie. Clearly if they believed they were guarding peace in this way, they were not North Koreans. And finally, I do not believe that "Guardians of Peace" were North Koreans because the other suspects, former employees of Sony, have a motive to hack and threaten the company. This motive is that there has been a lot of layoffs from the company lately, and employees that were lied off are sure to be angry. The hack could have been their way of getting revenge from Sony, and they may have only threatened an attack to hurt Sony's business.

Of course, no matter who the hackers were, the most important thing is that they did not go through with their threat of a 9/11 attack on theaters.