Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cocaine Killing National Parks

In case anyone needed another reason to know cocaine is bad for everyone involved, Scientific American appeals to their conservationist side. Although I doubt it'll work, it's an interesting aspect to the drug problem that has just recently appeared. This is a hard one to fix. I personally think if we start to tackle cocaine use, it ought to be for a better reason than saving parks, but I guess that's just me. In order to put a stop to this some serious attention would have to be paid to it, one that people probably aren't willing to put their money and their government's efforts towards.

In general, I see society as accepting drugs as something that will always be here. Not many people are up in arms about cociane. The Iraq war? Of course. Gay marriage? Check. Abortion? Yep. Cocaine? Well that can wait. We have more important things to worry about. It kills me to see the difficulty in zoning in on America's real problems: drugs and poverty. Education needs to be cleaned up, crime needs to be addressed, and a real solution to poverty besides food stamps. The national parks we really can worry about later.

People Not as Offended About "Biiter" Remarks

Along with many others who have read and watched Barack Obama's remarks on Pennsylvania voters being "bitter," I'm confused about the criticism. Not only was the video posted by an unethical source (completely different topic all together) but I don't even see what he said as being elitist. People have responding with similar comments--even those people that Obama was speaking about.

It was refreshing to see in an article on, that reporters were asking residents of rural Pennsylvania how they felt about the comments, instead of focusing on what others thought. Their response? Basically, 'he's right.' These people aren't necessarily even supporters of Obama, some are supporters of Clinton. Either way, they regret their decision to vote for Bush, and do not plan on voting for another Republican.

I see this remark as going in favor of Obama for a couple of reasons. First of all, those voters that are mentioned in the article, are vowing to not vote for another Republican. One of Obama's biggest appeals is to on-the-fence voters. The fact that he's speaking to these people at all, and even better the fact that he recognizes their struggles and their frustration, makes him the stronger of the two Democratic candidates. The people saying these comments were elitist, are in fact for the most part, upper class people in society themselves.

In his speech Obama said that he was not the one out of touch. Clinton tried to say he didn't understand the people, he was condescending, and that the blue collared workers were optimistic. Apparently she hasn't talked to these people. I say, way to go Obama.

Approved Torture Techniques

The AP and ABC have reported that the mysterious legal approval of torture techniques came from former attorney general John Acroft during a meeting chaired by Condoleezza Rice. Vice president Dick Cheney, secretary of state Colin Powell, and CIA director George Tenet were in attendance at a meeting that approved slaps, pushes, sleep deprivation, and the controversial act of waterboarding. President George Bush was purposefully isolated from this meeting, not that anyone doubts that he probably knew about it.

Last semester I took a class called Contemporary Moral Issues, which was actually a philosophy class. One of the units we studied was torture: what qualifies, what are the human rights issues, should it be used, and if so when? We also discussed water boarding which is probably widely misunderstood by the public because of all the hype surrounding it. It's probably by far the hardest technique to handle mentally, since it stimulates the feeling of drowning. It does not, however, leave lasting effects.

In a video released by ABC, it portrays John Ashcroft in a moral dilemma. History will not judge us kindly, he reportedly said. This topic is most definitely a complicated one. On one hand, torture is inhumane, doesn't actually work sometimes, and doesn't have much of a way of finding out if it actually works. On the other hand, shouldn't terrorist be held to harsher standards than the average citizen? And isn't it better to save a group of innocent people than cause a potentially bad guy some distress?

I recently saw the movie Rendition which portrayed the downfalls of torture techniques. Above every argument I've heard on the topic, watching this movie was the most powerful, and left the most lasting effects on me. Let me say first of all I'm a conservative and tend to think that anyone willing to kill thousands of people deserves to go through distress. I understand that everyone ought to have equal human rights, but I also think once you commit a crime to humanity, or are involved with a crime at that level, you lose those rights. That said, this movie completely changed my perspective.

A brief overview: An American citizen is in Africa doing some type of business. In the beginning you see a terrorist attack and a CIA official being killed from it. The American citizen is taken into captivity by the U.S. government after his flight back to the U.S. Any record of him being on the flight has been erased and he has in essence disappeared. While his wife persistently tries to find him, he is being tortured because of a phone call he made to the man involved with the attack. He also has previously knowledge of chemicals and knows how to create effective bombs, which these were, much better than the earlier ones.

In the movie, the man insists he doesn't know the man who's cell phone said he called. He is continuously tortured until he makes up a story about being payed to send them plans about the explosives. He gives them a list of names, which turns out to be a soccer team. The viewer never finds out whether the U.S. citizen knew this man or not. The scenes were fairly graphic and the U.S. citizen was a sympathetic character. After this movie it was hard for me to see the benefits. Whether this man knew him or not , it was clear that he had no incentive to participate in terrorist acts. He had a family in the U.S., an extremely stable and well paying job (the money was not an issue), and the treatment was completely unethical and illegal. He was not allowed to speak with a lawyer, call his wife, or go to any kind of trial. It was barbaric and made me realize how complicated the issue can be.

It's not always black and white, "good guy" and "bad guy." Sometimes it's unclear and in those cases torture is completely unethical. It's too difficult to make laws specifying when torture ought to be used, there are just too many scenarios. While others might be harsh on Ashcroft, I can understand his moral dilemma.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Possible Inclusion For the Death Penalty

The Washington Post ran a story today on the inclusion of child rape as a crime that deserves the death penalty and states that have adopted this, or some that wish to in the future. Let me first say that I am against the death penalty, not for moral reasons, I have no sympathy or respect for the life of someone who murders someone or rapes a child. I do think, however, that logistically it has become an unsatisfactory punishment. The "eye for an eye" model does not make sense in today's society. The death penalty is also costly, and depends too much on other resources such as DNA testing and the ability of the lawyer to make sure innocent people do not get killed. I also don't understand the moral argument that that's what they deserve. If someone brutally murders your daughter, you'd want just punishment. Put the state isn't going to brutally murder them, they will instead peaceful inject them with substances that in essence is like putting your dog to sleep.

The arguments for and against this new provision may seem completely logical and simple to the side arguing for each, but I think that in this case, the answer is more complicated, if one were to assume that the death penalty should be implicated at all, for anyone. On one side, it is argued that this is one of the most henious of crimes, that anyone who has the ability to molest a child ought to be given the most strict punishment. I agree that alongside murder there isn't anything as unthinkable as the molesting of a child. However, the other side has a more convincing argument. Many of these rapes and molestations are reported my friends and families of both parties. Many molestors will only commit crimes on those they know and spend time with, which is why in many cases the molestor and the child have the same circle of relationships. This provision might cause those who would normally report a rape, not to, because although the act is a disgusting one, it's hard to turn a relative in when it is common knowledge they will be facing death. Prison time is much easier to deal with. This also, some may argue, will encourage rapists to kill their victims instead of living them alive to tell others.

In rebutal to both: If it were my child being raped by my brother/uncle/father/grandfather, I think my anger and disgust would override my feelings of nostalgia to keep them around. Prison time or death, I doubt I'd be in contact anymore. Secondly, the later argument seems to contradict the first in that if uncle Henry is doing the raping, he probably isn't going to kill his neice. That's a lot harder to cover up to the rest of the family. As for both sides, prison time is not going to change a child molestor which is exactly why the Megan laws were created. If you commit manslaughter and spend time in jail, upon your release you do not have to tell anyone about your crimes. It is assumed that you did your time and you learned your lesson and it is against a democratic society to assume you will commit again. For molestors however, they do not learn from their mistakes no matter how much time is spent in jail. Punishment does not work because it is a disease. It takes therapy and counseling and other approaches to deal with child molestors. Therefore, both would have to reevaluate the punishment of offenders. Perhaps death is not the answer, but neither is prison.

Friday, April 4, 2008


Our class is taking on a project of contributing articles on the global economy to the community of I've had a chance to browse the site a couple times now and I'm overall pleased with what they offer.

Although personally I probably would not on my own take time to rate every article I read on the site, I think the idea of it is promising. I do think that if I came across an article that I think was particularly terrible, or particulalry well written and well reported, I would take the time to say something about it, otherwise I would probably use it as more of a homepage, somewhere to get a variety of sources commenting on topics that I care about.

As a hopeful future journalists I'm glad that newstrust honors the things that really matter in an article: accuracy, sources, structure, and fairness. It's important that the web doesn't serve as a place to simply rant about topics or pass things off as facts, because that would ruin the business and point of good journalism.

A selfish reason for appreciating newstrust is the fact that I usually only check the Washington Post website on a daily basis. Newstrust can give me a convenient place to check other publications that may have better stories, more information, or just a different perspective. I appreciate that you can also divide stories posted into different types of publications. So if I'm in a mood for a longer more in-depth article I can find the magazine section and click on an article from Slate magazine or Newsweek.

"The Complexity of Religion Can be Daunting"

Northeastern University’s journalism department held a forum Wednesday at 11:45 to discuss the topic of how religion in the media is changing.

The three speakers included Benjamin Hubbard, professor of comparative religion at California State University, Debra Mason, executive director of the Religion Newswriters Association and director of the Center for Religion, the Professions and the Public at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and Munir Shaikh, executive director of the California-based Institute on Religion and Civic Values.

Northeastern’s professor Stephen Burgard moderated the discussion that was held in the Curry Student center Ballroom. Around 100 students, faculty, and staff attended the hour and 45 minute discussion.

Hubbard, the first speaker opened with some stats about media bias in correlation to religion. According to recent studies, there’s been a problem with the siding with traditional, conservative religions in stories heavy in conflict.

“The media loves stories about religion if they have conflict,” Hubbard said. “This makes it look like a constant struggle between us and them.”

The media has to be constantly worried about how they’re portraying religions today, he stressed. It’s important to cover both sides, and all stories, including those without conflict.
Hubbard thinks that religion is becoming more and more present and the media needs to start focusing more on religion stories, and in making them accurate.

“Religion…is present so often that the need for reporters to be religion literate is becoming more and more important,” Hubbard said.

He went on to mention some important internet sites, including, that have been doing an exceptional job either covering religion stories or providing journalists with important religious information.

The recent story of Barack Obama’s former reverend showed both responsible and irresponsible religious coverage by the media, Hubbard explained. The politically right leaning media fell short in telling the whole story, while the left went behind and double checked information and told the whole story.

Mason spoke next, opening with the obvious recent changes in the media in general. Community building, conversational writing, and guerilla marketing have become essential in today’s world of journalism, Mason began with.

“The core of how we define news…is changing,” Mason said. “For religion news, I think that’s a good thing.”

She introduced those in attendance to the site and complimented the site on its ability to include information from a wide range of religions and topics. She also showed the site the directs:

The first step in good religion writing is knowing yourself and your own values, Mason instructed. You have to know what you believe in, because you will be asked that question, and you have to know your biases so you can be careful of that in your writing.

She then advised journalists to do your research before going to an interview. You need to know certain aspects of their religious beliefs so you can show them that you respect them. Have tough skin when approaching an article as well, she said.

“No other topic gets criticized or critiqued as much as religion,” said said. But don’t scare that into approaching the topic with fervor.

Like in many other beats, religion is being cut from papers around the country, so if a journalist wants to write about religion for the rest of their lives they ought to have a back-up plan, or be open to thinking outside of traditional media.

Rocco Palmo, a young man in his 20’s from Philadelphia, started his own blog called Whispers in the Loggia, a blog about the Vatican. He has been able to cover stories on Catholicism that no one has traditionally been able to get access to, Mason explained. Those are the kinds of directions up and coming religion journalists should be looking towards.

The last speaker spoke more directly about the religion of Islam. He explained that in today’s society it is extremely important to be respectful of religions we may not know a whole lot about.
The media has previously made mistakes in wording and phrases that can be easily avoided by learning more about the religion and the modern way of addressing things versus the more archaic way.

He then showed both articles that showed obvious biases towards Muslims, and those who approached the topic respectfully and with grace.

“The professional side,” Shaikh said, “I think, is showing tremendous maturity.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I Love Dumb Americans

I admit that I don't know everything there is to know about the rest of the world. Unlike some other students my age however, I do care to learn. I'm interested in international issues and I always read world news before national and local. One thing that I find hilarious though is a good ignorant American joke.

Nation Of Andorra Not In Africa, Shocked U.S. State Dept. Reports
To be serious, I honestly do think that if American's could pull their heads out of their asses and realize that we are not the end all be all of the world, we could gain some international respect. No wonder other countries hate us, we don't know anything about them! We don't even know what countries exist and what countries don't. Of course, I know this video was probably edited and re-edited and re-edited to find the more ignorant southerns they possibly could. Even still, it's pretty sad to hear some of the answers they give.

I'm not being anti-American when I say this. I actually do love America and the idea of what it stands for. Through and through patriotic ideals. Because of that I think it would do a lot of good in a day and age where there are people that would risk their lives to bring down America, to be able to see things from another perspective. To actually get a worldly view on things.