In Washington D.C. a bill has been approved by the House Rules Committee that aims to punish Russian officials for human rights violations while also establishing permanent normal trade relations with Russia at the same time. The bill received strong bipartisan support which comes as a relief in the face of the current U.S. political climate. The bill is meant to undo certain Cold-War era trade sanctions on Russia while continuing to acknowledge the abuses on individual rights that Moscow has been known to suppress even after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Needless to say, Moscow is not in favor of these measures being tied into a bill concerning trade. The bill is named after a Russian attorney, Serge Magnitsy, who was tortured and imprisoned by Russian officials after he exposed a complex arrangement of tax fraud and overall corruption involving high level Russian political figures. The Senate could pass the bill as soon as December.
In news that can many Alaskans can relate to, the U.N. has set a 2013 deadline for the submission of scientific claims to the Arctic seabed. With the opening of the Arctic due to climate change, the nations that surround the Arctic, the most powerful among them the United States and Russia,are all staking claims to parts of this territory. This brings up the fate of indigenous rights in the Arctic region, which has a particular impact on the Alaska Native community. In the upcoming decade we should expect to only see more of these discussions as Indigenous Alaskan communities must make legal maneuvers in order to protect their rights to a cultural identity and for historical landowning in the face of expanding super economies. This is especially important in light of how other nations are dealing with this looming conflict of interests. The Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), has been ordered to close. This organization represents around 300,000 people who live across sixty percent of the nation of Russia. This step will take away a common, and widely respected, voice from the several indigenous cultures that it represents. With no unified voice, these people will have less opportunities to have a say in Arctic development. These kind of steps should not be endorsed on this continent as well. Russia frequently pops up in this blog as a human rights violator, and this step is only another indication of malcontent for the freedoms of their own people.
In good news, this week the United Nations has declared that access to contraceptives is a universal human right. This was declared after a report entitled “The State of the World Population 2012” explained how providing women in developing nations with access to contraception will save around $11.3 billion annually in healthcare costs. Republicans wishing to find ways to reduce government healthcare costs may want to take note of this report.