Archive for the ‘Current Issues’ Category

Politics in Action

Politics can often be very frustrating and boring, especially when the conversation seems to be going nowhere. Although our governmental system is superior in many ways, it is often inferior for the same reasons. The US government is best known for its checks and balances system, which, as well as keeping people safe, can make things really hard to get done. For instance, it takes so much legal processing and procedure for a guilty murderer to be convicted that he/she can roam free for years before being put in prison.

Serious public issues sometimes get continually worse while politicians sit around discussing how to fix them. It often seems like more would get done if there was less regard for political etiquette and party based opinion. This clip is of Dylan Ratigan “losing it” during a political debate. Although he probably could have handled it better, this seems to be the only way to get his point across.

 

The points that Mr. Ratigan had made are correct. We as Americans have little control over what happens in the country. As much as you would like to believe that your vote counts, it doesn’t. America runs on a system called electoral college. Here’s a very condensed version of how it works: from the selection of people that are running for your state government, you pick the candidate that represents your views best (the keyword here is best). When presidential election time rolls around, you vote for who you want to be president in the popular vote (which can sometimes include a whole bunch of people you may not realize you were also voting for, since most states use a short ballot). Your state government takes a look at who the public wants to be president, and then they cast votes as representation of the public. Those votes are then counted and the new president is chosen.

Here’s the kicker, your state representation may not agree with the way you voted, and it’s their vote that counts. Your individual vote itself is statistically irrelevant, and is only as good as the state representation you have to choose from. Lets face it, not just anyone can run for office . You have to have the funds and the political skill to campaign, something that few citizens have. It is virtually impossible for the average Joe, whether he has awesome political ideas or not, to run for office. Theoretically, all citizens are eligible to run for office, but few make it simply on wit and charm.

This is the issue that Mr. Ratigan seems to be so angry about, and rightly so. The control of the country is out of the hands of the citizens who live in it. There seems to be more concern about which party is right than what will actually solve our biggest problems. It is worth considering that BOTH parties may be wrong, or right about some issues and wrong about others. No matter what your political view is, what is currently being done is obviously not working. We must consider the facts, or mathematics as Ratigan put it, instead of the opinions of one party or another.

Perhaps the solution is to “lose it” politically. Getting to the point seems to be the most effective way to get things done in this clip, instead of politely discussing viewpoints over tea. If something is not done, a second civil war may be on its way. One thing is clear: the individual citizens of America must stand up and take the government back from politicians.

Big Brother in Religion

The following video is the visual representation of my term paper, which compares modern dystopian literature and frameworks with religious perspectives. For someone who has not read the novels depicted in the video, the comparisons may be a little hard to follow. You can find synopses for Uglies, Pretties, 1984, We, and the Bible almost anywhere in the web. The purpose of this project is not to prove or disprove the existence of God, but to explore “Big Brother” characteristics shared by religious concepts, namely Christianity, as well as how our idea of “Big Brother” came to be and why it is important to humanity. I hope that you enjoy the video and take no offense to it, for none is intended.

If you have any questions, comments, or just want to know more about my English project, feel free to contact me.

Inhuman Fashion

Both men and women are heavily affected by the media, which distorts body image more and more every day. The following video, showing the transformation of an average woman into a gorgeous billboard star, was made by the Dove Beauty Campaign. This video is very popular, but for those who haven’t seen it yet, here it is:

Everyone knows that people in magazines and other images are usually altered and airbrushed, but seeing the entire process makes it a harsh reality. This video is the kind of thing I used to shake my head at, disappointed with the way that young girls everywhere were being influenced to achieve an impossible beauty standard. But something worse has already trickled down into the many facets of the beauty industry.

The airbrushed-but-still-human look is a wave of the past. The models replacing the photoshopped ones don’t even exist. That’s right; the two women in the picture below are completely computer generated, with features hand picked by fashion tycoons. If you look closely, the bodies of the two women are strikingly alike. How can any real woman possibly look so perfect? The fact is, they cant, and the spokesperson of H&M (the company who created the models below) agrees.

“H&M…cannot find someone with both body and face that can sell their bikinis.”
-Helle Vaagland

Click image to view source article.

The sad thing is, millions of people will see these images and buy into the messages they convey. The mission of the Dove Beauty Campaign is to remind society what human beings are supposed to look like. If companies continue to create impossible standards, we may be headed into the same sinkhole as the world in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies.

Next time you compare yourself to a picture in a magazine or a person on TV, remember that God didn’t grace that person with perfection; a computer did.

Winds of Change

The internet is one of the most important social and commercial mediums that Americans enjoy today. People can connect with friends and family, view information, make purchases, and, most importantly, present their own information and opinions. The entire focus of web 2.0 is the users and what they think, as opposed to the large corporations that had control of the internet when it first became available to the public.

America is one of the few places left that has not censored the internet. Many governments across the world have either taken away public assess or censored the web. Many of these countries, such as Egypt, are now areas of great social unrest.  How would the U.S. be different if we had censored internet? A lot of people have never even considered this question. Unfortunately, the issue is now more pressing than ever as a new bill is sent to congress, one that many citizens know nothing about.

This video pretty much says it all:

 

This situation is extremely frightening, especially since the matter is not directly in the hands of citizens. The protesters of corporations of Wall Street seem to have the right idea, they just aren’t protesting anything specific. Well, this is it. Censoring the internet could make or break America as we know it. The  best course of action is to raise awareness, and fight for our right protected by the first amendment. The internet has become the core of the successes of many writers everywhere. Would we even be able to speak our thoughts and opinions at all if this law were put into place?

Just like the video pointed out, one of the main concerns is what this could lead to. If this bill becomes a law, we may be headed for the society that George Orwell himself cautioned us against. What will the government do next? take away our right to assemble? Supervise our every move? Enforce nationwide curfews and travel restrictions? The answer, again, is in the video. They will go as far as we will let them.

What Every Mom Should Know

The results of a recent study have driven an uproar from the public regarding FDA regulations and consumer safety. This week, there have been multiple discussions on ABC, USA Today, Doctor Oz, and many other news mediums concerning the safety of one of the most highly used products in America: apple juice. It has now been disclosed that fruit juices may contain dangerous levels of arsenic.

Arsenic is an element that can be lethal to both humans and other organisms. Although it occurs naturally in the environment, the manipulation of mankind has made it one of the most dangerous poisons that is now found in every day things such as glass, wood, and food. Lenntech Water Treatment Solutions says the following about the health effects of arsenic:

Exposure to inorganic arsenic can cause various health effects, such as irritation of the stomach and intestines, decreased production of red and white blood cells, skin changes and lung irritation. It is suggested that the uptake of significant amounts of inorganic arsenic can intensify the chances of cancer development, especially the chances of development of skin cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer and lymphatic cancer.

A very high exposure to inorganic arsenic can cause infertility and miscarriages with women, and it can cause skin disturbances, declined resistance to infections, heart disruptions and brain damage with both men and women.
Finally, inorganic arsenic can damage DNA.

According to the Dr. Oz website, most drinking water in the United Stated contains about 10 parts per billion. At least 10% of tested apple juice samples contained about 23 parts per billion or higher, more than twice the drinking water standard. Arsenic is carefully regulated in the U.S. because it is so highly toxic, so how can arsenic levels in juice possibly be so high?

There is a simple answer. A very large portion of the products that Americans use every day are imported from other countries; up to 60% of juice concentrate is imported from china alone. Although regulations on the substance are strict in the United States, many countries have little or no regulations. The United states also has import regulations that may differ from those for products made in the states. This means that water used to irrigate crops may be tainted with high levels of arsenic and other toxins attributed to pesticides. The plants, which absorb arsenic and other poisons easily, eventually make it into our refrigerators.

Obviously, most of us feel completely fine. So what’s the big deal?

One of the most frightening concerns this brings up is the safety of our children. Anyone who is a parent knows that children are some of the biggest juice drinkers out there. I witness my siblings drink multiple glasses almost every day. Such large amounts of juice that can possibly contain toxins can be harmful to young bodies that are not yet able to filter them out. What disturbs me most is the fact that the two juices that my siblings consume the most, Juicy Juice and Gerber, contain the highest levels of arsenic in the study. In fact, Gerber is owned by Novartis, a pharmaceutical company that is also know for putting mercury in flu shots.

The point is, few of us know what is is we are feeding our children and consuming ourselves. Although the FDA is a great organization that can protect us, we should be doing our own additional research on the products we use.

To view information discussed in this article, visit:

http://www.lenntech.com/periodic/elements/as.htm
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/arsenic-apple-juice
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/dr-oz-investigates-arsenic-apple-juice

War on Privacy

Although the speaker in this video has a very annoying voice, it has an important message.

Technology is perhaps the most rapidly developing industry today, and with it comes an abundance of unexpected changes that add both excitement and risk to people’s lives. Recently, some very controversial technologies have been put into place, ones that many popular sci-fi and dystopian novelists would find absolutely chilling.

Google, for instance, could be argued to be the most powerful web presence. The company has power over more than a hundred other web applications, technologies, and web sites such as Android, YouTube, Picasa, and Blogger. Because of its astronomical development and its ability to seep into many facets of the internet, many people have become concerned with internet privacy, especially with the introduction of it’s new social network, Google+.

Social networks are currently one of the most powerful resources for advertisers, especially since most people in America have one. Facebook, one of the most popular social networking sites, operates on a system called an Open Graph, which collects information such as “likes” of each user and his/her demographics. The system can even pick out keywords in status updates and use them to tailor ads to fit a user’s wants and needs. This is a huge advantage for advertisers and can even aid consumers. But how far is too far? Many people say sites like Google have crossed the line.

The many faces of Google work together; for example, if you are logged in to your Gmail account and then make a Google search in a new tab, the company can link your email address to every search you make, as well as the location from which the searches are made. Accounts such as YouTube, Blogger, and Picasa are most generally linked to the users Gmail account if they use that account to sign up. The new Google+, like Facebook, stores user information in addition to all of the 0ther Google fronts to use at its disposal. Basically, whether you know it or not, the internet has compiled a profile on each and every one of us.

But that’s only the beginning.

One of the biggest threats to internet users today is the collection of their biometric data. That’s right, Facebook doesn’t just have pictures of you, it knows what you look like. Facebook frequently makes changes to their site, but only the changes that most directly affect user experience are brought to a users attention. Other changes regarding privacy or account matters are generally up to the individual to be aware of. One of these recent changes is a feature called “Tag Suggestions,” where Facebook stores your facial comparison data and recognizes you in photos, making it possible to add tags for friends and family instantly. This feature is automatically activated and is in use unless a user manually disables it in his/her privacy settings.

The same technology is being applied outside of the internet, such as on “smart” billboards in metropolitan areas. These signs can detect the age, sex, and attention spans of passersby. A smartphone app has now been developed to interpret the best party locations according to number of people and male to female ratio for participating businesses. Even interactive surveillance equipment has been put into place in certain parts of the UK and Europe (security cameras that tell you what to do).

As exciting and useful as these kind of technologies may be, we must also be wary of their progress and power. Countless examples, such as the film Minority Report, caution us against technology becoming an electronic “Big Brother.” But in reality, whether we want it to or not, it’s happening.

For more information on the information discussed above, you can visit:

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1711972,00.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/business/face-recognition-moves-from-sci-fi-to-social-media.html?_r=3&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha26
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google