Typhoon Haiyan Aftermath
Over 1,800 people have been killed due to a destructive typhoon that swept through the Philippines on Nov. 8, and hundreds of thousands more have been displaced and left in desperate conditions.
Talcoban, a once-lively city of over 200,000, was one of the first towns hit by Typhoon Haiyan, leaving many areas heavily damaged and others totally destroyed. Along the coast, buildings and homes were completely leveled, and inland towns have been flooded. According to the Philippine census office, about 33 percent of Talcoban homes have wooden exterior walls, and nearly 15 percent have grass roofs. Additionally, Talcoban’s airport was devastated by the typhoon, complicating rescue and aid efforts.
The destruction continued on across the central Philippines. Thousands of Cadiz homes were destroyed along with virtually all of its sugar and corn crops. Looting and other crimes became its own epidemic, rendering Leyte roads too unsafe for convoys to bring aid to those in need. Until they received aid from Philippine authorities, the city of Guiuan was without electricity and fresh water for four days. The Philippine government reports that over 2 million people are in need of food.
Five days after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, debris and corpses still litter the streets.
China Joins UN Human Rights Council
Amidst some controversy, China has been elected to hold a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council along with Russia, Saudi Arabia and 11 others.
Many anticipated China’s induction when the UN General Assembly gathered on Tuesday, Nov. 12 to elect a total of 14 new candidates for the 47-member council, and when the prediction was validated, no shortage of opposition was heard.
The N.Y.-based Human Rights Watch cites many contradictions to China’s stated dedication to the principals of personal freedom, including forced abortions and the oppression of political dissent, as seen with the long-term imprisonment of Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo.
At the Foreign Ministry Conference held on Oct. 31, Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying defended China’s candidacy, saying that millions of Chinese lives have been changed for the better due to current policies and leadership.
“In the past 30 years,” said Hua, “China has created more jobs than anywhere else in the world, pulled more people out of poverty than anywhere and pushed forward the largest scale urbanization project in the world.”
In their official Human Rights Council candidacy papers, China claims that they “earnestly fulfill their obligations under relevant international human rights treatises.”
Activists Propose Ban on Killer Robots
Taking their case to this week’s Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots (CSKR) plans to convince the United Nations to draft an international treaty to preemptively ban the use of fully autonomous weapons.
The 45-member coalition was founded by Noel Sharkey, chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.
“There are no robot systems that can discriminate between civilian targets and military targets unless they are very, very clearly marked in some way,” says, Sharkey, “so, the idea of having robots going out into the field and selecting their own targets is to me is just horrifying.”
Despite the group’s humorous moniker—not to mention the novelty of a man named “Sharkey” spearheading a campaign that antagonizes “killer robots”—autonomous weaponry is not exclusive to the realm of imagination. While fully autonomous weaponry has yet to be realized, varying degrees of autonomy have been applied to countless robotic systems used in and out of the military.
CSKR-member and Director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch Steve Goose says, “Killer robots need to be stopped now, before it is too late and their march from science fiction to reality becomes irreversible.”

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