Saturday, August 8, 2009
When I started thinking about why education is so important, I remembered my school years, the grounding years of anyone’s education. I went down memory lane to remember all my teachers, my school subjects, the study and the play! I never really hated school. But I have seen many who hate going to school; I have had some friends who did not like the idea of studying in classrooms. Many of you must have unwillingly entered your school gates.... But all of us know this dislike never lasts long. We soon start loving school and it is when it is time to leave school that we are in tears.... What is school life all about? It is all about laying the foundation of our education. It is a place to understand why education is so important and how important it is! It is an institution, where we learn to read and write. School transforms kids into literate individuals. It is where we get our basics cleared and at the point of leaving school, we are all set to soar high in life, enter the new world in pursuit of our dreams. Why is education so important? The first thing that strikes me about education is knowledge gain. Education gives us the knowledge of the world around us. It develops in us a perspective of looking at life. It helps us build opinions and have points of view on everything in life. People debate over the subject of whether education is the only thing that gives knowledge. Some say, education is the process of gaining information about the surrounding world while knowledge is something very different. They are partly right. But the conversion of information to knowledge is possible because of education. Education makes us capable of interpreting rightly the things perceived. Education is not about lessons and poems in textbooks. It is about the lessons of life. The words 'cultivate' and 'civilize' are almost synonymous to the word 'educate'. That says it! Education is important as it teaches us the right behavior, the good manners thus making us civilized. It teaches us how to lead our lives. Education is the basis of culture and civilization. It is instrumental in the development of our values and virtues. Education cultivates us into mature individuals, individuals capable of planning for our futures and taking the right decisions. Education arms us with an insight to look at our lives and learn from every experience. The future of a nation is safe in the hands of educated individuals. Education is important for the economic growth of a nation. It fosters principles of equality and socialism. Education forms a support system for talents to excel in life. It is the backbone of society. Education is important because it equips us with all that is needed to make our dreams come true. Education opens doors of brilliant career opportunities. It fetches better prospects in career and growth. Every employer of today requires his prospective employees to be well educated. He requires expertise. So, education becomes an eligibility criterion for employment into any sector of the industry. We are rewarded for exercising the expertise required for the field we venture. We are weighed in the market on the basis of our educational skills and how well we can apply them. Education is essential as it paves the path leading to disillusionment. It wipes out all the wrong beliefs in our minds. It helps create a clear picture of everything around us and we no more remain in confusion about the things we learn. Education brings up questions and also devises ways to find satisfactory answers to them. Education is about knowing that everything has a science to it, it is about learning to reason everything till every question meets its answer. Education can lead us to enlightenment. It is education that builds in every individual, a confidence to take decisions, to face life and to accept successes and failures. It instills a sense of pride about the knowledge one has and prepares him/her for life! Schools and colleges define the basic framework of education. Schooling gives us the fundamentals whereas we specialize in fields of our interest, during the degree courses. But education does not end here. It is a lifelong process. Self-learning begins at the point that marks the end of institutional education. The process of self-learning continues...
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Perhaps few human rights have ever received the legal, political and social scrutiny of the concept of freedom of speech. This Country's Constitution, along with similar passages in the framework documents of other countries, addresses this basic right of citizens to express themselves through written and oral speech. The difficulty with enforcing this ideal of freedom of speech, however, lies with the definition of "free speech" and the rights of governments to restrict or censor potentially dangerous forms of speech.Freedom of speech in a legal sense, however, does not protect every single word ever uttered or written by individuals. The Constitution primarily guarantees that the government itself would not infringe on the rights of a "free press" to publish articles critical of the government. Citizens also has the right to "redress grievances," which means they could legally assemble in public areas and deliver speeches without fear of government reprisal.The concept of freedom of speech has continued to evolve since the days of Colonial rule. It is still illlegal for private citizens to express controversial or unpopular speech under most circumstances, which means a group cannot deliver speeches or publish material which denigrates another race or other targeted groups. The rules which govern freedom of speech must be applied equally, regardless of the quality or veracity of the speech itself.There are restrictions on the concept of freedom of speech, however. Certain words and images cannot be broadcast over publicly accessible airwaves, for example. The government still has the right to determine if a form of speech violates existing indecency or pornography laws. Any speech which could be considered provocative "fighting words" or a call to take immediate illegal action is not protected under freedom of speech laws. The idea of yelling "Fire!" falsely in a crowded theater falls under this concept of prohibited speech.The legal and governmental concept of freedom of speech does not necessarily apply between private citizens and publishers. The Constitution only restricts governmental interference with private expressions of free speech. A private publisher can still refuse to publish a controversial or hate-filled article, and a private owner of a web-based discussion can still remove objectionable posts unilaterally. While citizens may enjoy the benefits of freedom of speech, there is also the concept of "freedom from speech" which protects the general public from immoral or inflammatory forms of expression.Freedom of speech is an important human right, and one worth defending against threats of arbitrary governmental censorship or repression. With such freedom, however, does come great responsibility. Freedom of speech does allow controversial artists, and others to push the envelope of acceptable speech and artistic expression, but there should still be some safeguards in place to protect the general population from extreme forms of speech which violate community standards of decency.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Democracy consists of four basic elements:I want to begin with an overview of what democracy is. We can think of democracy as a system of government with four key elements:1. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections. 2. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.3. Protection of the human rights of all citizens.4. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.I want to talk about each of these four elements of what democracy is. Then I will talk about the obligations and requirements of citizens in a democracy. I. Democracy as a Political System of Competition for PowerDemocracy is a means for the people to choose their leaders and to hold their leaders accountable for their policies and their conduct in office.The people decide who will represent them in parliament, and who will head the government at the national and local levels. They do so by choosing between competing parties in regular, free and fair elections.Government is based on the consent of the governed. In a democracy, the people are sovereign—they are the highest form of political authority.Power flows from the people to the leaders of government, who hold power only temporarily.Laws and policies require majority support in parliament, but the rights of minorities are protected in various ways.The people are free to criticize their elected leaders and representatives, and to observe how they conduct the business of government.Elected representatives at the national and local levels should listen to the people and respond to their needs and suggestions.Elections have to occur at regular intervals, as prescribed by law. Those in power cannot extend their terms in office without asking for the consent of the people again in an election.For elections to be free and fair, they have to be administered by a neutral, fair, and professional body that treats all political parties and candidates equally.All parties and candidates must have the right to campaign freely, to present their proposals to the voters both directly and through the mass media.Voters must be able to vote in secret, free of intimidation and violence. Independent observers must be able to observe the voting and the vote counting to ensure that the process is free of corruption, intimidation, and fraud.There needs to be some impartial and independent tribunal to resolve any disputes about the election results.This is why it takes a lot of time to organize a good, democratic election.Any country can hold an election, but for an election to be free and fair requires a lot of organization, preparation, and training of political parties, electoral officials, and civil society organizations who monitor the process.II. Participation: The Role of the Citizen in A DemocracyThe key role of citizens in a democracy is to participate in public life. Citizens have an obligation to become informed about public issues, to watch carefully how their political leaders and representatives use their powers, and to express their own opinions and interests. Voting in elections is another important civic duty of all citizens. But to vote wisely, each citizen should listen to the views of the different parties and candidates, and then make his or her own decision on whom to support.Participation can also involve campaigning for a political party or candidate, standing as a candidate for political office, debating public issues, attending community meetings and membership civic meetings, A vital form of participation comes through active membership in independent, non-governmental organizations, what we call “civil society."These organizations represent a variety of interests and beliefs: farmers, workers, doctors, teachers, business owners, religious believers, women, students, human rights activists,animals. It is important that women participate fully both in politics and in civil society.This requires efforts by civil society organizations to educate women about their democratic rights and responsibilities, improve their political skills, represent their common interests, and involve them in political life.In a democracy, participation in civic groups should be voluntary. No one should be forced to join an organization against their will.Political parties are vital organizations in a democracy, and democracy is stronger when citizens become active members of political parties. However, no one should support a political party because he is pressured or threatened by others. In a democracy, citizens are free to choose which party to support.Democracy depends on citizen participation in all these ways. But participation must be peaceful, respectful of the law, and tolerant of the different views of other groups and individuals. III. The Rights of Citizens in a DemocracyIn a democracy, every citizen has certain basic rights that the state cannot take away from them. These rights are guaranteed under international law.You have the right to have your own beliefs, and to say and write what you think. No one can tell you what you must think, believe, and say or not say.There is freedom of religion. Everyone is free to choose their own religion and to worship and practice their religion as they see fit.Every individual has the right to enjoy their own culture, along with other members of their group, even if their group is a minority.There is freedom and pluralism in the mass media.You can choose between different sources of news and opinion to read in the newspapers, to hear on the radio, and to watch on television.You have the right to associate with other people, and to form and join organizations of your own choice, including trade unions. You are free to move about the country, and if you wish, to leave the country.You have the right to assemble freely, and to protest government actions. However, everyone has an obligation to exercise these rights peacefully, with respect for the law and for the rights of others. IV. The Rule of LawDemocracy is a system of rule by laws, not by individuals. In a democracy, the rule of law protects the rights of citizens, maintains order, and limits the power of government. All citizens are equal under the law. No one may be discriminated against on the basis of their race, religion, ethnic group, or gender. No one may be arrested, imprisoned, or exiled arbitrarily. If you are detained, you have the right to know the charges against you, and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to the law. Anyone charged with a crime has the right to a fair, speedy, and public trial by an impartial court.No one may be taxed or prosecuted except by a law established in advance. No one is above the law, not even a king or an elected Prime Minister. The law is fairly, impartially, and consistently enforced, by courts that are independent of the other branches of government. Torture and cruel and inhumane treatment are absolutely forbidden.The rule of law places limits on the power of government. No government official may violate these limits.No Leader, minister, or political party can tell a judge how to decide a case. Office holders cannot use their power to enrich themselves. Independent courts and commissions punish corruption, no matter who is guilty.V. The Limits and Requirements for DemocracyIf democracy is to work, citizens must not only participate and exercise their rights. They must also observe certain principles and rules of democratic conduct.People must respect the law and reject violence. Nothing ever justifies using violence against your political opponents, just because you disagree with them.Every citizen must respect the rights of his or her fellow citizens, and their dignity as human beings. No one should denounce a political opponent as evil and illegitimate, just because they have different views.People should question the decisions of the government, but not reject the government’s authority.Every group has the right to practice its culture and to have some control over its own affairs, but each group should accept that it is a part of a democratic state.When you express your opinions, you should also listen to the views of other people, even people you disagree with. Everyone has a right to be heard.Don’t be so convinced of the rightness of your views that you refuse to see any merit in another position. Consider different interests and points of view.When you make demands, you should understand that in a democracy, it is impossible for everyone to achieve everything they want.Democracy requires compromise. Groups with different interests and opinions must be willing to sit down with one another and negotiate.In a democracy, one group does not always win everything it wants. Different combinations of groups win on different issues. Over time, everyone wins something.If one group is always excluded and fails to be heard, it may turn against democracy in anger and frustration. Everyone who is willing to participate peacefully and respect the rights of others should have some say in the way the country is governed.
Trinidad & Tobago has long been revered as one of the Caribbean’s best kept secrets. With exotic tropical landscape and its multi-dimensional cultural element, the dual island nation provides travelers with something more than just sun, sand and sea. The destination offers visitors a myriad of off-the-beaten path activities and extraordinary sites that are unique to the island. Among the most interesting are the following seven wonders: The Pitch Lake This natural phenomenon, situated in the village of La Brea in southwest Trinidad, has fascinated explorers, scientists and locals since its discovery by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595. About 250 feet deep at its center, it is estimated to have reserves in excess of 6 million tons, from which approximately 180 tons of pitch are mined daily. On a good day, the output can reach 240 tons. Far from being water, the “lake” is 40 percent pitch, 30 percent water and 30 percent colloidal clay. The only liquid source is the self-replenishing center, known as “The Mother of the Lake.” A gift of nature and a national treasure, The Pitch Lake provides the entire country, and many of the neighboring islands with pitch for building roads. Hanuman Murti Standing a towering 85-feet tall, the red and pink-coloured statue of the Hindu deity, epitome of wisdom, righteousness and strength, is said to be the largest such statue outside of India. Located in Carapichaima, in central Trinidad, the Hanuman Murti is a “must-see” religious site. The Hanuman Murti stands on the grounds of the Dattatreya Yoga Center and Mandir and attracts devotees offering gifts and performing the ritual of pradakshina, or walking clockwise in a holy temple while uttering the sacred Hanuman mantra. The Hanuman Murti took two years to construct and was consecrated in 2003. The Magnificent Seven These extravagant structures were originally built as family homes by wealthy Trinidadian men to symbolize their success and elevation in society. All but one of these lavish creations was built in 1904. The buildings are situated on lots located directly across from the Queens Park Savannah. One of the most impressive is Queens College. Designed by Daniel Hahn, former alum of the institution, the structure is described as being of German Renaissance style. Next door to the Queen’s College is the far more modest Hayes Court. Serving as the residence for the Anglican Archbishop, the building also has the distinction of being the only structure built in 1910. Adjacent to Hayes Court is the French Renaissance inspired Mille Fleur. The building was abandoned for several years and has since been acquired by the government with plans to restore it to its former splendour. White Hall is viewed as an impressive three-story structure that shimmers and glows in the sunlight. The building is currently being used as the Prime Minister’s office. One of the most popular of all these fabulous creations is the Stollmeyer’s Castle. Enjoyed by many for its fairytale style design, the building is described as completely bizarre based on its mix of French, German and Scottish influences. Originally known as the Ambard’s House, Rumoor’s whimsical domed roofs, arched windows and iron-gate posts are reminiscent of an elaborate gingerbread house. The final member of this remarkable collection is the residence of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Port of Spain. Main Ridge Rainforest Reserve Located in Tobago, the reserve is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. It was established in 1765 as a means to preserve the watershed of the island. The forest offers great biodiversity including many species of birds, mammals, frogs and non-poisonous snakes. Local tour operators offer rainforest excursions into the reserve primarily along the Gilpin Trace trail. Nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers walk into relatively undisturbed forest and feast on the flora and fauna. The reserve has consecutively won the award for World’s Leading Ecotourism Destination by the World Travel Awards from 2003 to 2007. Buccoo Reef/Nylon Pool Buccoo Reef is the largest coral reef in Tobago and was designated as a marine park in 1973. The popular dive site contains a reef system of five flats separated by deep channels. A spectrum of colour is offered by the coral gardens and the marine life supported by the reef. A major feature is the Nylon Pool, a veritable tranquil paradise in the ocean. It was given the name by Princess Margaret after her visit there in 1962, who thought the water was as clear as her nylon stockings. This unique feature of the reef complex allows swimmers to enjoy their own private swimming pool. Depths are no greater than 7-10 feet at high tides. Local folklore promises that a swim in the waters of the Nylon Pool will make you look five years younger. The Caroni Swamp Considered to be Trinidad’s largest mangrove wetland, the Caroni Swamp is situated just south of the capital Port of Spain on the island’s western shore. Spanning approximately 20 square miles, it is home to over 200 avian species, the most famous resident being the Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad’s national bird. During the day the birds are said to feed 11 miles away in Venezuela and then return to the island at dusk to roost. In so doing converting the mangroves from a sea of green to scarlet red a spectacle that has become a “must see” for tourists visiting the island. The swamp is a maze of channels and although the Scarlet Ibis is the feature attraction, there is a vast number of wildlife that inhabit the mangroves including fiddler crabs, oysters, four-eyed fish, tree boa and spectacled caiman. Queen’s Park Savannah This extensive open area located just north of Trinidad’s city center, is “the world’s largest roundabout”. Occupying approximately 260 acres of land, the Savannah is over 180 years old, making it the oldest recreation ground in the West Indies. It was originally part of the Paradise Estate owned by the Peschier family. In 1817, then Governor Sir Ralph Woodford acquired the property and converted it into a city park keeping a portion of land in the centre as a burial ground for the members of the Peschier family. The Savannah, considered the heartbeat of Port of Spain, plays host to larger musical events and is the epicenter for the annual Carnival festivities. As the city’s largest green space, locals can be seen jogging, cycling and walking their dogs at any hour of day or night. On the weekends and after 4 p.m. during the work week, the Savannah comes alive with football and cricket games, jogging, and couples and families talking strolls or having picnics. It is home to coconut vendors whose trucks that line the street on the western side. Other vendors sell roasted corn, oysters, pholourie and sno-cones. Trinidad & Tobago is located in the southeastern region of the Caribbean. With their careful approach to tourism, the dual island nation offers one of the last absolutely unspoiled Caribbean destinations. Trinidad, the ‘cultural capital of the Caribbean,’ is home to the world famous Carnival, the birth of the steel pan drum and Emmy Award Winning designer, for his work on the Opening Ceremony of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, Peter Minshall. Tobago, sister island to Trinidad, is the quintessential Caribbean island with secluded beaches, quaint villages, award winning eco-attractions and private villas.
Monday, August 3, 2009
The death penalty is a form of punishment which is currently used in many countries around the world, the USA being one of its largest supporters. Capital Punishment is no longer practiced in some countries however, and the debate that's gripping these countries is this: should Capital Punishment be legal? The answer is yes.It is immoral to the furthest extent to proclaim that a person who commits an extremely heinous act; such as rape, brutal premeditated murder or torture to another human being, still deserves the right to live freely, or even in an incarcerated state, in our country.We live in a digital age, thanks to DNA testing, forensic science and computers we are able to analyze evidence thoroughly and determine, beyond a shadow of a doubt, whether or not a person is guilty of committing a crime. This is not always the case, however, and in such instances it would be a blatantdisplay of bad leadership and moral values for the government to put someone to death. But if they know, with full certainty, that someone is guilty of a heinous crime such as murder, rape, torture or any other very henious crime, they should have the full right to remove the offender from society.Life SentencesA life sentence is a the second option, for individuals who commit heinous crimes. But it is a variable option. Sentences to life imprisonment may be withdrawn after twenty years in some instances, and the criminal is let back on the streets, where they are likely to re-offend. The government is paying for sick criminals to rot away for the rest (or most) of their lives in prison. They use tax payer's money to fund the prisons, where criminals are vainly being kept alive, simply to live the rest of their lives in prison; a purgatory between their free life, and finally their death. There is simply no point in keeping these people alive, consequently overcrowding prisons and costing tax payers more money. The argument of Life Sentences vs. Death Sentences is a weak one; if opposers of the Death Penalty argue that no-one has the right to decide whether someone lives or dies, then should they not argue that no-one has the right to decide whether someone may live freely or be incarcerated locked up in prison for the rest of their lives, where they are no use to anybody.Do They Deserve to Die?Another argument used by opposers of Capital Punishment is that everyone deserves a life; that no-one deserves to be killed. But then, they support Life Imprisonment, simply because the offender is still alive even though there is really no point to their existence. There should be no argument here: some people simply deserve to die, to pay for their actions.Wrongful ExecutionIt would be incorrect to state that every person who has been put to death was guilty. Wrongful execution is definitely a major issue with capital punishment. It is the main plot of The Life of David Gale, A 2003 film directed by Alan Parker. In the film, David Gale, an anti-death penaltyactivist was put on death row for the murder of his fellow Deathwatch activist, and good friend, Constance. At the end of the film, after Gale is put to death, evidence is released to prove that Gale was innocent; Constance killed herself in order to prove that innocent people are put to death.This is a justified argument against the death penalty. But, as was earlier mentioned, we live in an intelligent and technological age, and should the death penalty used, such mistakes definitely should not be made. In order for the death penalty to be effective, there must be an unquestionable amount of evidence to prove that the offender is guilty without a doubt before they are placed on death row.Moral ValuesWhen a person commits a heinous offence, when they appear in court they often present 'excuses' for their actions. The most common excuses are mental illness or mental scarring due to abuse as a child or a troubled upbringing; the offender might say that his mother was a drug addict, or that he grew up in an abusive environment, to justify his own acts of violence. But regardless of whether the offender didn't know they were doing wrong, or were in a psychotic state due to mental illness, the responsibility for their actions lays on them, and no-one else.For example, a man was in a car accident as a child which caused damage to his brain and gave him a psychotic anger management problem. He flew into a fit of rage, and bashed his daughter to death. He was most likely unaware of what he was doing, nor was he able to control it, but he still did it. He was sentenced to life in prison. Regardless of the 'excuse', regardless ofthe 'justification', that man was responsible for his actions.The argument of deciding whether a criminal should live or die does not come down to'playing god' by putting them to death, nor does it matter whether the offender had an 'excuse'. It comes down to moral values. The man bashed his daughter to death; no-one would want this man living in their community, because he committed a heinous act.The Death Penalty is the strongest promoter of moral values. By putting a dangerous criminal to death they are removed from a lawful society where they may re-offend, they are not placed in confinement where they live pointlessly off the community, and their misjudgment of moral values is made public. The public will know, then, that if they are humane and moral beings, they will be free to live peacefully with others.The FamiliesIt is natural that in the event of a murder or serious offence, the only people taken into consideration are the family of the victim. A thought is rarely spared for the family of the sentenced offender; it is unlikely that an unrelated party could imagine how the offender's family may feel knowing that their relative is suffering in an overcrowded prison, rather than being put out of their misery. The death penalty is a justice to the victim and the offender, as well as their families, by bringing justice to the victim and putting the offender out of their misery.Playing GodWhenever the issue of capital punishment comes up, religion is thrown into the works. Religious people argue that their particular god created life and is the only one who has the right to end it. This causes a whole other argument; Atheism vs. Christianity vs. Islam vs. Hinduism vs Judaism, etc. The same way that a person should not be put to death simply because someone believes that they are guilty, a person should not be put to death simply because someone believes in a higher being which controls the occurrence of life and death. The government is representative of the wider community, and the government makes decisions to benefit the community. They decide which person are to be removed from society and incarcerated, for the benefit of the community. It is simply the matter of the Death Penalty being an improved alternative to life imprisonment, therefore the government has full right to put an undeniably guilty person to death.Methods of Capital PunishmentThe current most common methods of putting someone to death are: lethal injection, firing squad, electric chair, and in some countries hanging, gas chamber and beheading are still used.It is important for any human being, criminal or not, to die with dignity. A murderer may display his or her own immorality by taking another's life, but it would be inhumane for anyone to put them to death in an undignified manner. For example, the lethal injection is the most commonly used method in the United States. It involves the offender being given a last meal, being made to wear a diaper (because when the lethal injection kills the person, their bodily functions fail) and lead down a corridor to the chamber where they are strapped down and injected with either Sodium Pentothal, Pancuronium Bromide, or Potassium Chloride. The death penalty should be used more effectively. It will free space in prisons, cease tax payer's funding the life of undesirable criminals, bring justice to both offender and victim, and keep heinous criminals out of society.Life sentences are not an effective alternative; the offenders may be released, causing them to reoffend, or if they are kept in prison for the rest of their lives they suffer, cause overcrowding of prisons, are cause for their families to suffer, and are simply no use to society.Capital Punishment is the strongest promoter of moral values. By letting a criminal rot in prison, simply because the victims or affected people want them to suffer, simply causes them to stoop to the criminal's level of inhumanity. The death penalty is there to eliminate inhumanity in oursociety, while Life Sentences support it.People who commit heinous crimes deserve to die; they surrender their right to live freely in society by displaying inhumanity towards others. It is time to mend the mistakes made in society and make this country a better country free of criminals and all its elements. Some of you may not agree, but you decide and comment.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Crooks are waiting at your destination. Watch out for these latest scams while you're travelling.You didn't fall for the "free trip" scam and you wisely avoided those too-good-to-be-true offers. However, don't let your guard down just yet. There are many scams awaiting you at your destination. Here are some of the latest tricks you'll want to avoid: Can you spot the fakes? When it comes to petty crime, tourists are easy targets because they're unfamiliar with their surroundings and aren't aware of culture norms or "how things are done" at their destination. It's easy to dupe an unsuspecting tourist who can't tell the difference between a fake and "the real deal". Counterfeit cops. You're in a foreign country and an official-looking person asks to see your documentation, your currency, credit cards and other valuables. As soon as you dig them out, the thief grabs them and runs. Fake cops have also been known pull over cars for a "search" (translation: robbery or carjacking). False friends. Sometimes these counterfeit cops have help from someone who is sent to earn your trust. The U.S. State Department warns of a scheme in Bolivia where a "tourist" befriends other travellers to win their trust. The counterfeit police then intercept the group and find contraband on the "tourist" -- which is the perfect excuse to take everyone to the "police station" and collect all of their documents, credit cards and bank cards. Alternatively, these new friends might suggest a trip to a local attraction via taxi -- but instead, the destination is a safe house and the activity is a robbery. Phony cabs and limos. You arrive at your destination and there are many helpful services offering you a ride to your hotel. The best case scenario: an unscrupulous driver will take the "the long way" or grossly overcharge you. If you're not so lucky, you could be robbed, assaulted or kidnapped. Phony travel guides. You might see through the "helpful local" who offers to show you around for a fee, but Scambusters warns that con artists posing as official guides are harder to spot. They'll take your money, ask you to wait at a certain spot and then disappear with your cash. Fake parking lot attendants. Parking in your home town can be tricky enough -- but at least you know the rules. Abroad, criminals posing as parking lot attendants are banking on you not knowing the rules. They'll hand you a ticket with an inflated fee which you must pay on the spot. Chances are you're parked illegally or you'll still have to pay the real fee to the real parking attendant. (Scambusters warns this scam is currently spreading through major European cities.)Fake cola. Beware when buying beverages at a roadside stand or café. The bottle label and cap may be from your favourite soft drink, but the contents are questionable and are likely made by street gangs under less than sanitary conditions. Scambusters notes that this trick is common in the Indian subcontinent.Good services gone bad Some scams are a little harder to spot because they're perpetuated by people you think you can trust like travel service providers and company representatives. They're counting on you to be tired and in a hurry so you won't ask too many questions or cause a fuss. Rental car rip-off. You return your car safe and sound, but suddenly it won't work for the attendant. The company will then blame you and force you to pay for repairs -- and they may hold your luggage until you pay up. Downgrading the hotel. You arrive at your hotel only to find out it's overbooked, but you're being offered alternative accommodations at another property. However, your new room definitely isn't worth the price you paid -- and your original hotel is pocketing the difference. (For more information, see Avoid the latest hotel scam). Paper ticket fees. While e-tickets are becoming the norm for air travel, you can still pay to have a printed ticket mailed to you. However, experts warn that some travel agents are charging four to five times the usual fee for this service. It's time to comparison shop those fees as well as the fares. Cash transfers. Believe it or not, it's possible to use an ATM in some countries (like South Africa) to transfer money to other people using a "CashSend" service. While Scambusters notes that this is a legitimate service, it warns that crooks can set up the service to transfer the cash to them instead. In fact, they might stand behind you in line and tell you that hitting the "CashSend" button will speed up your cash withdrawal."Tourist prices". It's well-known that many establishments charge tourists more than locals, but they often have help getting customers through the door. Beware of helpful taxi drivers or locals who recommend a place as they're likely earning a commission. And a warning to single men: beware of pretty girls asking you to buy them drinks -- the bill will be much higher than you expect. In some countries, pricing scams are so well-known that local embassies post lists of clubs and restaurants tourists should avoid.Phishing scams. Sure, it would be nice to get some cash back from the taxes you paid on items while you were abroad. However, beware of any emails pretending to be from your country's customs service, especially if they ask you for banking information in order to help you get your money back. Distract and grab. Reach for your wallet if you find mustard splattered on your shirt or if a bird does its business on your shoulder. While you're distracted cleaning up, someone else is running off with your wallet. Alternatively, someone may drop money or another valuable item to get your attention. Drink spiked or tainted food. Smart women know not to accept drinks from strangers and to keep a close eye on their beverages. However, abroad both men and women can become victims of drugs slipped into their drinks before they're robbed. Tips to avoid getting taken: - Know before you go. Find out as much as you can about how things are done at your destination (like paying for parking or booking a tour) and what criminal tactics you should watch out for. Can you tell a real police officer from a bogus one? Do you know what fees you'll have to pay and to whom? Check out guide books, travel websites and government travel advice to get the scoop. (See Is it safe to go? for tips and resources.)- Don't get greedy. A lot of scams prey on people's desires for cash and goods -- like dropped money, offers of "valuable" goods at discount prices, opportunities to transport goods for cash or other business scams. Some of these crimes can even land you in jail.- Keep your wits about you. Enjoy the scenery, but be aware and alert to your surroundings too. Also, drink in moderation -- criminals will be looking for intoxicated tourists whose judgment and reaction times are impaired. - Go incognito. Tourists are often targets because they're perceived as wealthy, so trying to blend in is recommended. Two big no-nos: obvious displays of wealth (like fancy jewellery and designer labels) and obvious signs that you're a tourist (like you're paying more attention to the map than your surroundings.) - Give yourself plenty of time. How can you avoid unscrupulous agents and companies? Remember, they're counting on you to be in a hurry so allow yourself extra time to read the policies, ask questions and request to talk to a manager if needed. Don't leave checking in or returning the car until the last minute, and try not to appear rushed, tired or frustrated even if that's how you're feeling. - Get used to the local currency. Be smart with your money by knowing not just the conversion rates but also the look and feel of the money you're handling. Some experts even recommend saying the bill denominations out loud as you hand over the cash.- Practice safe money handling. There are a number of steps you can take to protect your valuables from pickpockets, like not carrying your cash and passport together or carrying a "dummy" wallet. In some countries, it may not be safe to use your credit cards at all. (For more tips, see Credit card fraud and money safety abroad.)- Keep important numbers handy -- namely your travel agent, your embassy and the local police or tourist police. Call the appropriate authorities on the spot if you have to (or threaten to call). - Avoid harm. Both the police and governments warns that you should never put yourself at risk of physical harm. If you're threatened with violence or think a criminal could become violent, don't resist. You can replace your cash and documents. - If you're caught, report the incident to the police and to your embassy. You may not see any resolution or return of your property, but you will be helping to warn other travellers. This information ends up in government travel advice and on embassy websites. So should you be paranoid? No, but do be cautious. Most travellers don't experience serious problems, but being informed can help you reduce the risk of a crime disrupting your vacation.
Crime is a result of an individual’s moral disposition that attempts to satisfy desire by taking something by force. Rape, theft, murder, assault, fraud… it does not matter. All crime boils down to a an attempt to satisfy a desire by taking what does not belong to the person doing the taking.Certainly, there is a correlation between poverty and crime, and lack of education and crime. This does not mean that the correlation is causitive.For example, numerous studies have shown a relationship between one group of people and crime. The percentage of that froup in prisons is disproportionate to their ratio in the country’s population. Crimes committed by that group is also disproportionate to crimes committed by other groups.Does this mean that one race are inherently disposed toward crime? I do not believe it is legitimate to make this claim. We cannot reasonably assert that people of a particular ethnic group are predisposed to commit crimes. However, I do think there is a way that allows us to grapple with the example of a particular group crime rates (or the crime rates of any other racial group) without sliding down the slope of advocating genocide in order to keep crime down in this country.I agree with the philosophers Thomas Aquinas and John Locke when they said that the human being is born as a tabula rasa, or blank slate. Thomas Aquinas was the first to assert the tabula rasa theory in the 13th century, though it was John Locke who fully expressed the idea in the 17th century. In John Locke’s philosophy, tabula rasa was the theory that the (human) mind is at birth a “blank slate” without rules for processing data, and that data is added and rules for processing is formed solely by one’s sensory experiences. The notion is central to Lockean empiricism. As understood by Locke, tabula rasa meant that the mind of the individual was born “blank”, and it also emphasized the individual’s freedom to author his or her own soul. Each individual was free to define the content of his or her character - but his or her basic identity as a member of the human species cannot be so altered. It is this presumption of a free, self-authored mind combined with an immutable human nature, from which the Lockean doctrine of “natural” rights derives.In recent times tabula rasa has come to be understood fundamentally differently. While the idea that the individual can be changed remains, the power to effect that change is now ascribed to society, not the self - and that power extends to the whole of human nature. Under this view, one can almost without restriction shape the individual by changing the individual’s environment, and thus sensory experiences.If the tabula rasa theory is correct, then we can also conclude that since humans are born as a blank slate, races of humans cannot be accused of being born toward certain proclivities (e.g. Jewish people as bankers, blacks as criminals, whites as drug dealers, Arabs as Terrorists and so forth).Tabula rasa holds that an individual’s experiences shape them. This means that a person’s parents, siblings, extended family and surrounding culture all shape a young person. Yet, individuals also choose how they respond to sensory experiences. Children particularly are shaped by their cultures and as they grow up and develop better reasoning and feeling skills, they learn how to better understand the forces that influence them. We are both shaped by our environments and we exert some choice in how we respond to our live experiences.The important idea is that races do not have intrinsic values because people do not have intrinsic values at birth. Our values are shaped by our how we sense and interpret our experiences. Our experiences come from our cultures.Because I believe in tabula rasa, I do not believe that races have intrinsic values. However, I do believe that cultures have values. People derive their values from the cultures they participate in. Culture is the aggregate set of values and practices that arise from the interaction between people who share some kind of affinity (race, a community, interests, etc.). I’m not even going to pretend to try to explain the dynamics and adaptations of cultures because all that will be evident is my ignorace. However, what I will say is that people influence cultures and cultures influence people.Cultures form and reflect values as a consequence of the interplay between people and their cultures.Cultures are the primary carriers of values and as people interact with those values, the momentum of culture usually possesses the stronger force of influence. Emerging out of the inertia of culture is difficult because so much is tied to identifying with a culture.Over the years, I have observed young children play with other children of different races. I have found that children are color blind: kids tend to not see skin color and make value judgments based on skin color. However, when a child is exposed to racist ideas, from parents or from the culture in which the child’s family lives within, the child will tend to absorb those values. This is due partly because people feel a need to conform in order to be accepted. Their belongingness to the important people of their lives subtly demands conformity. It is also due to a child’s limited life experiences. When a child does not have an opportunity to hang out people who have different cultural values, then racism becomes “normal” to them. Children who grow up with alcoholic parents are usually surprised when they first discover that not all parents drink to get drunk. Normal is defined by what surrounds us and when we lack comparitive experiences, it is difficult to frame a difference concept of what normal is.So then it is a person’s culture that forms their values. And when a culture justifies crime and violence as a means to acquire what they desire, it should not be a surprise that people within that culture will also value crime and violence. My thesis then, in summary, is that it is not certain races that are disposed to criminal behavior; it is instead that all cultures that are disposed to certain kinds of behaviors. This is why stereotypes are often a truncated truth. There is an interdependent relationship between people and cultures: people form their cultures over time by the values they reflect in their behaviors and people are formed by their cultures over time as they participate in the culture.I am reading a book titled Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World. What I am learning in this book is that people have an amazing ability to organize themselves into communities and cultures that enable them to live well together. I have read sudy after study in this book about poor people who cannot afford traditional housing who squat on land and over time, build vibrant, economocally dynamic communities. The larger cities that own the usurped land gradually come to accept the squatter communities as legitimate extensions of the city at large.What has impressed me so far in the book is how poor people have consistently demonstrated an ability to create orderly, well-functioning systems, even in the face of deprivation and subsistence living. Certainly, these communities are not crime free; criminal elements do come into the communities to exploit the people there. Nevertheless, these communities are able to sustain their lifestyles and gradually grow as decades pass.Criminal acts are committed because a person believes that they are somehow entitled to a certain standard of living or because they demand that certain expereinces be made available to them. This is fundamentally a moral issue, and the ethic is one that all people can agree on regardless of their political or religious perspective. All credible religions and long-lasting civilizations over time have agreed that crimes like murder, theft, rape, kidnapping, assault and fraud are immoral. As long as a culture honors this minimum social contract, society carries along relatively smoothly. It is only when people choose to absorb the values of a criminal culture when those fundamental morals gradually erode.Do not be deceived: crime is not caused by deprivation nor ignorance. It is caused by a willful choice to seize what does not belong to a person. Crime is the result of cultural values not genetics. One Ethnic group may have a high rate of criminal activity because a segment of that group's culture values drugs, violence and the objectification of women and children. Please note that it is a small segment of that race that commits crimes. I am saying that in any case — the problem is with the culture not the race.Regardless, aborting babies of a praticular race will not ameliorate crime rates. However, changing cultural values could have an effect on crime. It’s not an easily achieved task, but it is certainly less reprehensible to say certain cultures value crime than it is to blame crime on entire races. Cultures can be changed; skin colors cannot.