Science for Human Rights Program Unveils New Toy

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AGM Countdown: In the run up to Amnesty International’s Annual General Meeting in New Orleans this weekend, the Science for Human Rights program will be posting a new blog entry every day this week. All of the projects presented this week—and many more—will be at display in New Orleans.

For this year’s Annual General Meeting, the Science for Human Rights Program (SHR) is unveiling a cool new toy. This new toy, which we’re calling the “SHR Explorer,” enables you to check out a selection of the satellite images we have acquired and analyzed over the years, and lets you really see the extent of human rights violations in all different parts of the world. By using the slider, you can really see the striking differences between before and after images taken of the same exact place.

Screenshot of the SHR Explore. Copyright 2010 DigitalGlobe. CLICK IMAGE TO GO TO SITE

Screenshot of the SHR Explorer. Copyright 2010 DigitalGlobe. CLICK IMAGE TO GO TO SITE

Images from Zimbabwe and Chad show the extent of housing demolitions in select areas of those countries. In both Porta Farm, Zimbabwe, and N’Djamena, Chad, housing demolitions have caused immeasurable pain and suffering to people who have been made homeless by their own government.

In Lebanon, Georgia and Nigeria, violence has caused widespread damage and destruction to civilian infrastructure. Satellite images of Beirut, Lebanon, appear to prove that Israeli forces used cluster bombs in civilian areas during the August 2006 conflict, and those of Tskhinvali, Georgia, show many missing rooftops as result of the war between Georgian and Russian forces in August 2008. In Nigeria (our most recent project) the images show how many structures in the city of Jos have been destroyed by fire during recent clashes in the region.

And in New Orleans, aerial photographs demonstrate the slow pace of reconstruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The first aerial image shows the flood that happened right after Katrina hit, and the second image shows what the same area looks like 4 years later, in 2009.

The Explorer is really going to be a powerful new tool as we continue to document and monitor, and do advocacy and campaigning work on various human rights abuses all over the world.

Check it out today!

Not Pretty: New Orleans Still Devastated Almost 5 Years After Katrina!?

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AGM Countdown: In the run up to Amnesty International’s Annual General Meeting in New Orleans this weekend, the Science for Human Rights program will be posting a new blog entry every day this week. All of the projects presented this week—and many more—will be at display in New Orleans.

With the AGM being in New Orleans this year, and as we are fast approaching the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall on the Gulf Coast, Amnesty International is committed to raising awareness about the slow progress in housing recovery, as well as the demolition of public housing, and the problems of blight and homelessness in the city of New Orleans. Recent estimates of homelessness in New Orleans have ranged from nearly 10,000 individuals and families to as many as 12,000.

AI has been active in working to protect human rights in the Gulf Coast as the region rebuilds after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Initially focused on the right to housing, AI’s Rebuilding the Gulf project now focuses on promoting a broader range of human rights concerns that arise in disaster affected areas.

In an effort to raise the visibility of the human rights conditions in the region, Amnesty International’s Science for Human Rights Program has created a visual representation of the level of destruction and lack of reconstruction using aerial images taken of the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, before and after Hurricane Katrina, and also by analyzing postal information by Census Block, again before and after Katrina hit. This information plainly shows how many people left the area and have not been able to return (or at least aren’t receiving mail any more) as well as the amount of infrastructure that was damaged, and as of 2009 when the aerial image was taken, hadn’t been repaired.

New Orleans postal data

Click image to see full visual

In addition to this visual representation, AI is creating a Google Earth Layer, implanting photos taken on a GPS camera from a recent AI mission to region, including stops in Gulfport, Mississippi, and New Orleans. These geo-referenced photos, along with some additional images, show the level of devastation that STILL exists to this day, as well as simultaneously demonstrating the lack of progress of reconstruction that has occurred, in particular to, the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana. This GE layer will be uploaded to our website soon.

Although it has been almost five years since Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, much still remains to be done to rebuild the Gulf Coast. AI believes that the best and most effective way to secure and rebuild lives is by respecting, protecting and fulfilling the human rights of those affected.

If you happen to be in New Orleans this weekend, please check out this project, and many other Science for Human Rights projects at AIUSA’s AGM.

Mapping the U.S. Maternal Health Care Crisis

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AGM Countdown: In the run up to Amnesty International’s Annual General Meeting in New Orleans this weekend, the Science for Human Rights program will be posting new blog entries throughout the week. All of the projects presented this week—and many more—will be on display in New Orleans.

On March 12, 2010, we released Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Crisis in the USA, our groundbreaking report on maternal health in the United States. Deadly Delivery lays out a clear case for the ways in which the U.S. health system is broken, and how we can fix it to fulfill the right of all women to maternal health.

Map of US maternal mortality ratios, based on information in Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Crisis in the USA. © Amnesty International. Produced by AAAS. <strong>CLICK TO SEE FULL MAP.</strong>

Map of US maternal mortality ratios, based on information in Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Crisis in the USA. (c) Amnesty International. Produced by AAAS. Click to see full map.

 

One of the most shocking facts, illustrated in this map, is that the numbers vary immensely from state to state. A woman in Washington, DC, is almost 30 times more likely to die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth than a woman in Maine. Maine is one of only five states (the others being Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Vermont) that have met the Healthy People 2010 goal of 4.3 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Most states’ ratios are far above that, and maternal health statistics in the USA have not improved in 20 years.

Inequalities abound. Amnesty International researchers found that women in the United States faced barriers to quality health care that included discrimination, language barriers, cost, bureaucratic hurdles, shortages of health care providers, and a lack of standardized national protocols to prevent and respond to life-threatening complications. Women of color are disproportionately affected, as are rural women, women in the inner cities, and women who do not speak English. African American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications than white women.

With a map like the one above, some of these disparities become immediately apparent. With such blatant inequalities from state to state, the United States needs better coordination and accountability on maternal health at the national level.

That’s why Amnesty International is calling on Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and President Obama to create an Office of Maternal Health in the Department of Health and Human Services. The office would ensure comprehensive data collection and effective nationwide review; ensure access to timely prenatal care; issue evidence-based protocols to prevent, recognize and respond to the leading pregnancy complications; encourage home visits after childbirth; vigorously enforce federal nondiscrimination laws; and recommend regulatory and legislative changes to ensure quality maternal care for all women.

Take action now by writing to Secretary Sebelius!

Mapping CIA Black Sites

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AGM Countdown: In the run up to Amnesty International’s Annual General Meeting in New Orleans this weekend, the Science for Human Rights program will be posting a new blog entry every day this week. All of the projects presented this week—and many more—will be at display in New Orleans.

In its most extensive study of secret detention practices to date, the UN released a 222-page report on the practice of secret detention in dozens of countries. The report was to be presented to the Human Rights Council in March but the Council has agreed to postpone the discussion until June. The detailed study conducted by four independent UN human rights experts accuses the Bush administration of utilizing practices in severe violation of international law.

Map of US secret detention facilities, based on information provided by a recent UN Human Rights Council report. (c) Amnesty International. Producend by AAAS. CLICK TO SEE FULL MAP

Map of US secret detention facilities, based on information provided by a recent UN Human Rights Council report. (c) Amnesty International. Produced by AAAS. CLICK TO SEE FULL MAP

Following the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. began to limit and remove mechanisms protecting human rights in the context of the Global War on Terror. Lumping the United States with the likes of Stalin and Pinochet, the study cites the U.S. practices as an “unprecedented departure” from established international humanitarian and human rights law, specifically pointing to the Geneva Convention.

The report focuses on the CIA run secret detention facilities and the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on high value detainees.  While the U.S. has generally refused to disclose the locations of these facilities, the specifics have slowly leaked out.  The study found evidence confirming CIA “black sites” in 20 locations around the world, including Thailand, Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Kosovo.

During the operation of these sites, the U.S. used secret flight plans, charter aircraft and subcontracting agreements to remove evidence of U.S. government involvement. Individual case reports have begun to fill in the missing details of the locations and use of enhanced interrogation techniques at these secret detention sites. Amnesty International has created a visual representation of the UN study mapping the locations of the reported secret detention sites.

Shahna Esber contributed  to this blog.