Rohingya refugee camp quiet after Bangladesh delays return
By JULHAS ALAM
Friday, November 16
COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Normal life returned to a Rohingya Muslim refugee camp in Bangladesh on Friday, a day after government authorities postponed plans to begin repatriating residents to Myanmar when no one volunteered to go.
United Nations officials and international aid agencies praised the government of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who hopes to retain power in elections next month, for upholding a commitment not to force the repatriation.
Hasina has repeatedly discussed the toll on Bangladesh of hosting more than a million Rohingya — including more than 700,000 who fled military-led violence in Myanmar since August 2017 and tens of thousands of others who escaped previous bouts of violence and persecution.
Residents of Cox’s Bazar district often complain that they have been undercut by refugees willing to work illegally for lower wages. Thousands of acres (hectares) of national forests usually roamed by wild elephants have been taken over by the cramped and unsanitary camps.
But Hasina’s decision not to force the repatriation is unlikely to hurt her bid to win a third term in December, according to Pinak Chakravarty, India’s former ambassador to Bangladesh and a fellow with the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.
“The people of Bangladesh are sympathetic to the plight of the Rohingya. Apart from the fact that they’re refugees, they’re fellow Muslims. She understands that these feelings are strong, and that is why I think she would not force anyone to go,” he said.
As it became apparent that refugees were unlikely be sent back, tensions eased in the camps. The checkpoints at the entrance to Unchiprang, one of the refugee camps near the city of Cox’s Bazar, were temporarily left unguarded on Friday morning as about 500 people crowded into a mosque for Friday prayers.
One of the imams, Abdul Hakim, told the devotees that the government could not force Rohingya to go back without Myanmar guaranteeing them protection and civil rights, to which they raised their hands and replied, “Amen.”
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh from western Myanmar’s Rakhine state since last year to escape killings and destruction of their villages by the military and Buddhist vigilantes that have drawn widespread condemnation of Myanmar.
Bangladesh’s refugee commission had planned to begin a voluntary repatriation process under a United Nations-brokered deal with Myanmar by escorting about 150 refugees across the border on Thursday, despite calls by U.N. officials, Human Rights Watch and others to wait until the Rohingya’s safety in Myanmar could be assured.
U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said earlier this week that the agency continues to receive reports of ongoing violations of the rights of Rohingya remaining in Rakhine, including “allegations of killings, disappearances and arbitrary arrests,” as well as widespread restrictions on freedom of movement, health and education.
Fearful of returning home, some people on Bangladesh’s repatriation list left their shanties and disappeared into other camps.
After a demonstration involving about 1,000 Rohingya broke out at Unchiprang, Refugee Commissioner Abul Kalam said plans had been shelved because no refugees were willing to return.
Kalam did not immediately return calls and messages on Friday, and it was unclear when the process would begin again.
Nabi Hossain, 45, left his shanty at Unchiprang camp late Wednesday with his wife, Jamila Begum, and six other family members after noticing extra security at the camp.
“We heard they will come and take us. We were in a panic,” Hossain said, adding that the family slept outside and didn’t eat much because they didn’t want a cooking fire to attract attention.
They returned Thursday after hearing about the protest.
“If they allow us to have our rights, our citizenship, we want to go. But if we are forced, if our rights are not given, it is better to crush us under the wheels of cars or be thrown in a river,” Hossain said.
Not everyone who fled Unchiprang has returned.
Johara, 30, a mother of five, said her husband left five days ago with their 6-year-old daughter, who was traumatized after witnessing Myanmar soldiers ransack their home village.
“My daughter is terrified. She told her father to take her with him,” she said.
Johara, who goes by one name, said her husband left to find his parents at another camp after she gave an interview to aid workers, and the family found out they were on the government’s repatriation list.
While Johara waited for her husband and daughter to return, activity at Unchiprang returned to normal, with little sign of the aid workers, journalists or government officials who had swarmed the camp earlier in the week.
Even as refugees in Bangladesh protested against repatriation, concerns grew that another Rohingya exodus from Myanmar by sea may be in the works.
Authorities in Myanmar arrested 106 people, believed to be Rohingya, whose boat drifted to shore Friday morning in Kyauktan township, south of Yangon, during what they said was an effort to sail to Malaysia.
One of the people detained, who did not give his name, told reporters that the group came from a displacement camp for Rohingya near Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine. He said the group departed on Oct. 25, and one passenger, a 20-year-old woman, had died of hunger.
The boat drifted to shore after they decided to return to Rakhine because of the lack of supplies and tried to turn it around, he said.
Sittwe is a frequent exit point for Rohingya seeking to make the dangerous and illegal voyage by sea to Malaysia, which is a Muslim majority country which generally tolerates their arrival.
In 2015, a mass of such journeys caused a regional crisis, especially as the policy of some nations, especially Thailand, was to turn away the boats, even when those aboard were in desperate circumstances. Unknown hundreds of refugees are believed to have perished at sea. Several boats made the same voyage in April this year.
Another boat believed to be carrying Rohingya refugees was sighted Friday near Indonesia.
Muhammad Nasir, who heads a disaster mitigation office in the northern part of Indonesia’s Sumatra island, said fishermen reported seeing a wooden boat carrying about 80 people believed to be Rohingyas.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said Friday that the continued Rohingya flight from Myanmar shows that Bangladesh’s repatriation plans should remain shelved.
“Myanmar might claim that it is ready to receive the refugees, but the truth is that the conditions are not safe, and the Rohingya cannot make a decision about voluntary returns until human rights protections are guaranteed with international monitoring, and there is accountability for the horrible abuses by the military,” she said.
Associated Press journalist Min Kyi Thein in Kyauktan, Myanmar, contributed to this report.
Yes, GPS apps make you worse at navigating – but that’s OK
November 16, 2018
Jennifer M. Bernstein
Lecturer of Spatial Sciences, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Jennifer M. Bernstein does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Southern California — Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Many of us have had the experience of arriving in an unfamiliar city and needing to get to a specific destination – whether it’s checking in at a hotel, meeting a friend at a local brewery, or navigating to a meeting on time.
With a few clicks of the smartphone, the destination is inputted into a navigational app, with customized route preferences to avoid traffic, tolls and, in cities like San Francisco, even inclines. Anxiety abated, one drives to one’s destination via voice prompts and the occasional illicit glance at the constantly updating map.
But, after having arrived safely, there is the vague awareness that we don’t know how we got there. We can’t remember the landmarks along the way, and, without our handheld device, certainly couldn’t get back to our origin point. That raises the larger question: Are the navigational capacities of our smartphones making us worse navigators?
Research points to yes. But, given the ubiquity of these devices, as well as their ability to enable particular groups, perhaps we should learn to embrace them as a technological prosthetic.
Worse at finding our way
All cultures practice wayfinding – sensing one’s environment for barriers to travel, then navigating spatially to a remote destination.
Geographers (like myself), psychologists, anthropologists and neurologists have all studied how individuals navigate from point A to point B. In a landmark 1975 paper, psychologists Alexander Siegel and Sheldon White argued that people navigate via their knowledge of landmarks against a larger landscape. New navigational routes are discovered via the linking of familiar landmarks with new ones.
For example, Inuit people, faced with snowy, topographically uniform landscapes, are attentive to subtle cues like snowdrift shape and wind direction. Until the advent of GPS devices, those cultures had no cultural conception of the idea of being lost.
Research has established that mobile navigational devices, such the GPS embedded in one’s smartphone, make us less proficient wayfinders. Mobile interfaces leave users less spatially oriented than either physical movement or static maps. Handheld navigational devices have been linked to lower spatial cognition, poorer wayfinding skills and reduced environmental awareness.
People are less likely to remember a route when they use guided navigation. Without their device, regular GPS users take longer to negotiate a route, travel more slowly and make larger navigational errors.
While physical navigation and static maps require engagement with the physical environment, guided navigation enables disengagement.
Expanding the view
However, that doesn’t mean mobile navigation is all bad. A blanket demonization of these devices may be a form of “ethnonostalgia,” where we find ourselves sentimental for an imagined simpler place and time. Technological advances, historically, have liberated humans from toil and suffering.
Further, many of our experiences are mediated through technology. Drivers use cars, hunters use guns, and many of us are constantly on our smartphones. In short, as sociologist Claudio Aporta and ecologist Eric Higgs put it, “Technology has become the setting in which much of our daily lives take place.”
In his seminal 1997 article, geographer Robert Downs argues that spatial technologies need not replace geographic thinking, but rather serve as a prosthesis, supplementing our spatial awareness. The increased access to information gives people a new way to quickly and easily explore new landscapes – which can then lead to physical exploration of said landscapes (many of my fellow map nerds do this all the time). We can then focus less on the rote memorization of place names in favor of a deeper understanding of the topography.
While research shows that use of handheld navigational devices can lead to lower spatial knowledge, that may not necessarily be the device’s fault. Those most likely to use guided route navigation are already the least confident in their own navigational capabilities; further use of navigational devices leads to a negative feedback cycle, where people become more reliant on their devices and less spatially aware.
What’s more, for some groups, these devices are enabling. Handheld navigational devices can now enable independent wayfinding by those who are sight-impaired. While not without their drawbacks, handheld navigation can empower those with spatial orientation challenges, be they real or imagined.
You can’t characterize human nature if studies overlook 85 percent of people on Earth
November 16, 2018
Professor and Associate Director of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change , Arizona State University
Daniel Hruschka’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation.
Arizona State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Over the last century, behavioral researchers have revealed the biases and prejudices that shape how people see the world and the carrots and sticks that influence our daily actions. Their discoveries have filled psychology textbooks and inspired generations of students. They’ve also informed how businesses manage their employees, how educators develop new curricula and how political campaigns persuade and motivate voters.
But a growing body of research has raised concerns that many of these discoveries suffer from severe biases of their own. Specifically, the vast majority of what we know about human psychology and behavior comes from studies conducted with a narrow slice of humanity – college students, middle-class respondents living near universities and highly educated residents of wealthy, industrialized and democratic nations.
To illustrate the extent of this bias, consider that more than 90 percent of studies recently published in psychological science’s flagship journal come from countries representing less than 15 percent of the world’s population.
If people thought and behaved in basically the same ways worldwide, selective attention to these typical participants would not be a problem. Unfortunately, in those rare cases where researchers have reached out to a broader range of humanity, they frequently find that the “usual suspects” most often included as participants in psychology studies are actually outliers. They stand apart from the vast majority of humanity in things like how they divvy up windfalls with strangers, how they reason about moral dilemmas and how they perceive optical illusions.
Given that these typical participants are often outliers, many scholars now describe them and the findings associated with them using the acronym WEIRD, for Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic.
Because so little research has been conducted outside this narrow set of typical participants, anthropologists like me cannot be sure how pervasive or consequential the problem is. A growing body of case studies suggests, though, that assuming such typical participants are the norm worldwide is not only scientifically suspect but can also have practical consequences.
Consider an apparently simple pattern recognition test commonly used to assess the cognitive abilities of children. A standard item consists of a sequence of two-dimensional shapes – squares, circles and triangles – with a missing space. A child is asked to complete the sequence by choosing the appropriate shape for the missing space.
When 2,711 Zambian schoolchildren completed this task in one recent study, only 12.5 percent correctly filled in more than half of shape sequences they were shown. But when the same task was given with familiar three-dimensional objects – things like toothpicks, stones, beans and beads – nearly three times as many children achieved this goal (34.9 percent). The task was aimed at recognizing patterns, not the ability to manipulate unfamiliar two-dimensional shapes. The use of a culturally foreign tool dramatically underestimated the abilities of these children.
Misplaced assumptions about what is “normal” might also affect the very methods scientists use to assess their theories. For example, one of the most commonly used tools in the behavioral sciences involves presenting a participant with a statement – something like “I generally trust people.” Then participants are asked to choose one point along a five- or seven-point line ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. This numbered line is named a “Likert item” after its social psychologist originator, Rensis Likert.
Most readers of this article have likely responded to many Likert items in their lifetime, but when this tool is taken to other settings it encounters varying success. Some people may refuse to answer. Others prefer to answer simply yes or no. Sometimes they respond with no difficulty.
If something as apparently simple and normal as a Likert item fails in different contexts (and not in others), it raises serious questions about our most basic models of how people should perceive and respond to stimuli.
Aiming for a science of all humanity
To address these potentially vast gaps in our understanding of human psychology and behavior, researchers have proposed a number of solutions. One is to reward researchers who take the time and effort to build long-term research relationships with diverse communities. Another is to recruit and retain behavioral scientists from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Still another is to pay closer attention to the norms, values and beliefs of study communities, whether they are WEIRD or not, when interpreting results.
A key part of these efforts will be to go beyond theories of “universal humans” and build theories that make predictions about how the local culture and environment can shape all aspects of human behavior and psychology. These include theories of how trading in markets can make people treat strangers more fairly, how some societies became WEIRD in recent centuries, and how the number of personality traits we find in a society – such as agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism – depends on the complexity of a society’s organization.
Proponents disagree on the best paths to moving beyond WEIRD science to building a science of all humanity. But hopefully some combination of these solutions will expand our understanding of both what makes us human and what creates such remarkable diversity in the human experience.
Kerns Family Leaves a Lasting Legacy for the Latino Community
Catholic Social Services
November 19, 2018 – The Association of Fundraising Professionals Central Ohio Chapter will be presenting Mr. R. Kevin Kerns with the Leave a Legacy Award for his contribution to Catholic Social Services’ Our Lady of Guadalupe Center, which serves the largest population of Hispanics in Central Ohio.
Continuing a family commitment to social justice and philanthropy, Mr. Kerns’ legacy gift to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Center will fund a bilingual case manager and connect the Center’s clients with individualized resources to help them move toward self-sufficiency. It will also empower the Center, which is the only resource center in Franklin County aimed specifically at the growing immigrant Hispanic population, to make an exponentially greater impact within the community.
“This impact would not be possible without the forward-thinking and vision of Mr. Kerns,” said Rachel Lustig, President and CEO of Catholic Social Services. “Because of his generosity, CSS will be able to leverage this gift into even more resources to help the growing immigrant Latino community—and in so doing; we will be able to continue extending the Kerns family’s legacy of service.”
The 26th annual National Philanthropy Day award luncheon took place on Tuesday, November 20 at the Hilton Columbus Downtown Hotel.
About Catholic Social Services
Catholic Social Services (CSS) is an anti-poverty agency whose goal is to empower people in need, regardless of background, with the tools they need to reach their full potential. We focus our efforts on two specific populations that allow us to have the most significant impact in our community: families and seniors. Our unique approach to helping our clients—most of whom are marginalized or struggling with poverty—is designed to help them overcome barriers to success while respecting their dignity and acknowledging their value to our community. CSS was named one of the Top 5 Nonprofits to Watch in 2017 by The Columbus Foundation. Learn more at www.colscss.org