Tom Malinowski on our Hardest Global Rights Questions

Tom Malinowski has been keeping a critical eye on the Obama administration’s human rights policies: that’s his job as Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. However, he remains sensitive to the challenges of steering the unwieldy ship that is the Federal Government towards a more noble foreign policy—after all, he served in the Clinton administration State Department just over a decade ago.

Malinowski visited Big Think recently, both to grade Obama on his performance so far in a wide range of human rights issues, and to take a broader view of human rights in the 20th century.

Malinowski is most passionate about torture; he tells Big Think that it is never acceptable, even in theoretical exercises, and calls on us all to be human rights advocates. Saddam Hussein and Hitler, Malinowski argues, began their reigns as local human rights violators; if the world addressed those problems from the start, we could have avoided wars with much higher costs.

Despite his hard line on torture, Malinowski is sensitive to the difficulties of interacting with important economic powers, such as China, that also violate human rights. He gives Big Think a workable solution to the problem, explaining how to find issues that require direct action, how to keep America’s moral authority, how to maintain a hard-line stance on human rights while continuing to conduct economic diplomacy, and how to utilize technology to get around oppressive government roadblocks.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

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  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
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For a long time, the West shaped the world. That time is over.

The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.

  • Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
  • European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
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Why modern men are losing their testosterone

Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?

Flickr user Tom Simpson
Sex & Relationships
  • Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
  • While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
  • The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
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Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
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