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Opinion

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Photo Courtesy of Times

Jessica Wade
OPINION EDITOR

Many people have grown numb to the now 6-year war in Syria. The world tuned back into the country’s conflict April 4 after deadly chemical weapons were used to attack Syrian rebels and civilians in Syria’s Idlib province. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 70 people were killed and hundreds more injured, many of them children.

Photos and videos of men, women and children who lay choking and gasping for air after breathing in what is believed to be a nerve agent echoed the tragedy of chemical warfare that has taken the lives of 14,000 Syrians within the last 6 years, only adding to the devastation of Syria’s war.

According to Mercy Corps, 11 million people have been killed or displaced by Syria’s civil war and medical care is becoming increasingly rare as extremists’ groups, Russian bombers and Assad-backed forces target hospitals.

The use of chemical weapons in Syria is illegal, inhumane and has been occurring for the past three years. The United Nations found proof of such an occurrence between 2014 and 2015, when the Syrian air force dropped chlorine on civilians.

The April 4 attack was met with outrage internationally, including from President Donald Trump and the UN security council, both placing blame on Russian-backed fighters for Syrian President Bashar alAssad. Russia’s claim that the attack was carried out by rebel fighters has been met with skepticism.

Trump didn’t just blame Russia for the attack, but the past Obama Administration as well, claiming the assault was a “consequence of the past administration’s weakness.”

Trump is correct in saying the Obama administration failed to fulfill their promise to actively combat the use of chemical weapons. The former administration made promises they had very few resources to keep, and unfortunately, like much of the international community, the United States did little to aid victims of the conflict.

In September 2013, Trump tweeted his opposition to intervening in Syria.

“What I am saying is stay out of Syria,” Trump said. “The only reason President Obama wants to attack Syria is to save face over his very dumb RED LINE statement. Do NOT attack Syria, fix USA.”

The statement he released April 5 seemed to have a bit more support for intervention in Syria.

“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world,” Trump said. “The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack.”

Trump has condemned the attack, now it’s time for him to take action in whatever form that may be. The Trump administration has expressed the potential dangers of directly attacking the Assad regime and rolling the dice on who might end up in power, but as long as the regime remains attacks such as the one on April 5 will contin-ue.

The international community has chosen to look the other way while millions of civilians are caught up in a devastating, multifront war. If leaders choose not to react, the humanitarian devastation of chemical warfare will only grow more prevalent.

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Photo Courtesy of AFP

Jessica Wade
OPINION EDITOR

The internet is an amazing, powerful thing, a tool for information to spread and for ideas to evolve and be shared.

Unfortunately, the internet is also used as a platform for opinions advertised as straight forward facts and deliberate lies spread as news. What may begin as a rumor tweeted to a few hundred people can grow into something dangerous.

One such baseless rumor led 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch to fire an AR-15 rifle into the door of a pizzeria restaurant in Washington D.C., a response to the blatant lie that the restaurant was the site of a child sex-abuse ring involving powerful Democrats such as Hillary Clinton.

Then there was the case of Anas Modamani, a Syrian refugee who posed for a selfie with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015. Modamani sued Facebook after the photo went viral with strangers claiming he was a criminal and a terrorist. He recently lost his case in court, but his case is one of many that has led to Germany’s social-media bill that was unveiled Wednesday.

The first of its kind, the bill is intended to deter the spread of hate speech and fake news in Germany. If passed, it would compel social media giants like Facebook and Twitter to pay massive fines if they failed to remove fake news or content that incites hate.

Possibly a response to the fake news that ran rampant during the U.S. election last year, officials hope to prevent a similar situation as Germany enters its own campaign season. It is also intended to combat the surge of far-right violence in the country.

Merkel’s cabinet approved the bill Wednesday, meaning its approval by the German Parliament is highly likely.

Facebook is actively taking steps towards combating fake news on its own and has reacted to the bill with skepticism, insisting the measure would give too much power to corporations in deciding which content crosses the line.

“We work very hard to remove illegal content from our platform and are determined to work with others to solve this problem,” A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “As experts have pointed out, this legislation would force private companies, rather than the courts, to become the judges of what is illegal in Germany.”

This bill is an interesting concept, but it does highlight a problem that seems to come up often in an increasingly polarized society at what point does a personal opinion cross from free speech to threaten-ingly hateful?

Fake news is a serious problem that has the potential to ruin the lives of individuals as well as influence public opinion, but monitoring the content posted on private accounts is a controversial plan, even if it is
executed with the best intentions.

A country’s greatest defense against fake news is to educate people on what is opinion, what is news and what is a blatant lie spread to hurt a group or individual. In a world where people can communicate instantly, the safety net of legitimate news—professional journalists, copy editors and a three-source system, is constantly taken for granted.

Facebook was not founded with the intention or the responsibility of becoming a reliable news source, but it will have to find a way to evolve. World leaders should give it a chance to evolve on its own rather than force laws on a platform intended for free expression. In this increasingly divided world, hopefully people remember to share the truth.

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Jessica Wade
OPINION EDITOR

The approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline by the Trump Administration earlier this year brings both protests and questions to Nebraska. As one of six states impacted by the 1,200 mile, $8 billion pipeline, many Nebraskans are rightfully concerned for the state’s fragile ecosystems, farmland and the Ogallala Aquifer, which is the main water supply for the Great Plains.

The anticipated pipeline that TransCanada wants to build would carry crude oil from Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, where it would connect with an existing Keystone Pipeline and would take the oil to refineries located on the Gulf Coast.

Nebraskans such as University of Nebraska-Omaha freshman John Bruce are attempting to raise awareness on the potential risks of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Bruce works with Bold Nebraska, an organization that, according to their website, is “a citizen group focused on taking actions critical to protecting the Good Life.”

Bruce said college students are a strong group to become involved with the protests because many are interested in politics.

“So far I haven’t heard anyone who is for the pipeline,” Bruce said. “Water is one of those things where it’s a nonpartisan issue so it’s not a very favorable thing across the state.”

The Trump administration has assured the public that the pipeline is a money-generating, environmentally-safe venture. President Donald Trump also assured the public that the pipeline would be built with American-made steel, a guarantee that will not be kept.

To his credit, Trump has kept his promise to pursue job generating ventures. It is unfortunate he has done so by bulldozing through policies set in place to protect the environment, especially when the potential economic advantages of pursuing clean energy could benefit both the economy and the environment.

The idea of clean energy combined with economic growth is not too good to be true, but the Trump administration is pushing that potential further out of reach.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission is the only thing that obstructs TransCanada’s building the Keystone XL. The company still needs a permit from the committee.

Public hearings held by the Nebraska Public Service Commission regarding the fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline’s route through Nebraska are scheduled.

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Zachary Mulrenin
CONTRIBUTOR

I found my way back to Westminster from Greenwich to again visit the ticket office for the Houses of Parliament, as earlier this morning that office appeared to be closed. Today is my last day in London before moving on to Edinburgh, and I had really wanted to see the seat of the UK government before leaving.

This time around, there was a man in the ticket office, but he told me that there were no tours today. He did, however, inform me that a debate in the House of Commons was going on at that moment and that the public is free to observe any debates.

This was actually just the thing I had hoped to see, and so I hurried over to the Palace of Westminster, went through security and before I knew it was observing a rather dull debate regarding pensions. I didn’t get the full gist of it, because I came into the chamber in the middle of it.

After some time, the chamber went quiet. I don’t actually know much about how these debates work, so I had assumed that the debate must have ended. I was just thinking that I would leave and visit the Tower of London once more, and then suddenly lots of people Members of Parliament, or MPs flooded the chamber. I suspected that some great debate must be about to happen, or an important announcement was to be made.

It was then that the Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle spoke, announc-ing that a security incident had occurred and that the chamber was to be locked down. Shortly after that, another man spoke and informed the chamber that a police officer had been stabbed on the premises, and that there was a shooting. It was all rather scary, but I imagined that I was in the safest place to be if any violence had escalated.

Having no service for my cell phone, I asked one of the staff if there was any internet access, and he signed me into the building’s wireless network so that I could contact friends and family back home and let them know where I was at, and that I was safe. I made a Facebook call to my parents, and sent my girlfriend some messages to let them know the situation. I spent the next couple of hours keeping up with the news and the details of the incident as they came out.

After those few hours passed, those of us who were observing the debates were told to head downstairs, into the main Westminster Hall. Who I presume was the police chief or some other high ranking officer made an announcement telling the hundreds of us in the H\hall that the police had three priorities: any medical emergencies must first be dealt with; that they needed to identify and gather information from witnesses of the incident; and that they would have to interview everyone in the hall.

As I sat on the steps towards the end of the hall, I was a little bit annoyed that so many people had been gathered into one location. Frankly, keeping us all in that hall together made me feel more vulnerable as there would have been no exit should another attack occur targeting the crowd. Within the Hall, I no longer had access to the network that I was connected to back in the chamber – I asked a woman next to me if she had any updates on the situation, and she informed me that four people had died from a car ramming pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, and that the police officer who was stabbed had also died. It’s quite heavy to think that I likely saw that man on my way into the building just minutes before his death.

The crowd was finally released from Westminster Hall around 2000, though it was through a back gate of the premises. A staff member named George led me through the building to the appropriate exit. After exiting, a policewoman asked for my name and address,and after providing those details I was at last free to leave.

I walked for a while in one direction, trying to separate myself from the crowds before finding an operating tube station. I was a little reluctant to take the tube, but Tow-er Hill station – which is nearest to where I’m staying – was too far to walk in these circumstances, and I wanted to avoid the sidewalks lest another incident occur. I made my way back to the hostel in this manner, where I downed a pint before retiring to my dorm.

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Photo Courtesy of Top FM

Kenneth Pancake
Contributor

A couple of weeks ago, a news show host on a major news network waved a U.S. citizen’s 1040 tax form across the screen of millions of viewers, going into detail about the tax payer’s income and tax rate for the year of 2005. Does that cause concern? It should, even if the host was Rachel Maddow for MSNBC, and even if the taxpayer was none other than President Trump.

In some befuddled attempt to uncover something negative about Trump, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow actually gave the President a little victory in the middle of a bad week. After a day’s worth of hype for that evening’s show, she revealed that she had obtained copies of Trump’s 1040 tax form from the year 2005.

As it turns out, this revelation only proved that Trump, as far as we know, pays his taxes – something that the mainstream media and elite left-wingers have been casting doubt on for the entire election season. Ironically, it also showed that he paid a higher tax rate than Bernie Sanders or President Obama in more recent years (granted, the Donald is probably much richer and is most likely in a higher tax bracket).

That, however, is not the biggest issue that presents itself in this story.

Somewhere along the line of communication in MSNBC’s newsroom, someone thought that it would be okay to publicly display and analyze a citizen’s confidential tax returns.

Let’s take a look at the legal side of the argument and the moral side (it is vital to remember the difference between the two – something can be legally correct, but morally wrong, or vice versa).

The legal side stands the U.S. Code, title 26, 7213, which states that it is “…unlawful for any person to whom any return or return information is disclosed in a manner unauthorized by this title thereafter willfully to print or publish in any manner not provided by law any such return or return information.”

It is also a crime, under section a4, to solicit disclosure of such a form or return. Unfortunately, the original thief of the returns would have to be found in order to present a credible court case, as per the SCOTUS case Bartnicki v. Vopper.

On the moral side, it’s just plain wrong. Tax returns feature highly confidential information that the taxpayer has a right to keep secret (except from the IRS, of course). If this fiasco doesn’t concern you, just view yourself as the taxpayer, and the news anchor as your worst enemy. Let’s remember that President Trump has the same rights of confidentiality as the rest of us, and is not obligated under any law to present his tax returns to the public (although it wouldn’t hurt his cause to deal such an easy blow to his opponents).

If the mainstream news really wants to attack Trump like they have been doing for the entire election cycle last year, why not focus on something of actual substance, like the fact that Trump just visited one of his favorite golf courses for an eleventh time since inauguration day, after criticizing Obama of his frequent golf outings? Or perhaps that Ivanka Trump will get a west wing office, and access to classified information without actually having an official job?

For being so desperate to bring the President bad press, the mainstream media is not doing a great job.

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Photo Courtesy of Madeline Miller

Jessica Wade
CONTRIBUTOR

Nineteen-year-old Madeline Miller says she’s always had trouble with pain in her feet, but when she was 16 years old, the pain spread to her wrists and knees—symptoms of an incurable, debilitating illness.

“I had just been sick for a while, I remember driving home from work and turning the heater on full blast in my car and holding my wrist to it,” Miller said.

Miller’s mother, Melanie, says she knew something was wrong when Miller had trouble putting on her shoes and buttoning her jeans.

“We took her to a hand specialist who treated her for three months, then Madeline said her knees felt hollow and weird, the hand specialist sent us to our pediatrician who sent us to the rheumatologist,” Melanie said.

Pediatric rheumatologist Dr. Emilina Lim diagnosed Miller with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), which according to the Arthritis Foundation website, is the most common form of arthritis, affecting roughly 300,000 children in the United States.

Miller says she received this diagnosis on Aug. 14, 2014, the day before the start of her senior year of high school. Unfortunately, while Miller does have a form of JIA, her complete diagnosis wouldn’t come until much later.

Miller graduated high school an honors students and was awarded three scholarships to the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

As a freshman at UNK, Miller received steroid injections and “felt really good up to November” when the pain began creeping back into her knees. Miller says the pain was manageable, but then she contracted strep throat.

A moderately painful, but not uncommon nor untreatable illness, the strep jolted Miller’s immune system, which, in an attempt to fight off the bacteria, aggressively attacked her joints.

“I failed all my classes that semester because I couldn’t walk,” Miller said. “I got really depressed, lost around 30 pounds within two months. The one time I actually went to class, I threw up three times on the way there because I hadn’t eaten anything except my medications.”

The flare caused by the strep not only hurt Miller’s second semester.

“The flare did a lot of lasting damage,” Miller says. “I need a new shoulder and a new jaw, a lot of the pain I have right now is damage from that flare.”

Miller says that it was because of this arthritic flare that she had to leave UNK and move back home, but it was also this flare that led to her true diagnosis.

Late summer of 2016, Dr. Adam Reinhardt of Children’s Hospital and Medical Center discovered that Miller has Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, a condition ailing only 10 percent of children with JIA.

Systemic JIA, according to the Arthritis Foundation website, “causes inflammation in one or more joints and is often accompanied by a high spiking fever (103°F or higher) that lasts at least 2 weeks and a skin rash.” It can also cause inflammation around the heart and lungs.

The costs of Miller’s illness are massive, both literally and figuratively.

“Some of her shots cost the insurance company $4000 monthly, some cost $10,000 monthly,” Melanie said. “Currently her infusions cost the insurance company $22,000 every other week. We have really good insurance so we don’t have to pay much out of pocket, but Madeline cost the insurance company about $450,000 last year.”

Melanie said the emotional cost is high as well, and having a sick child being treated with medications that don’t seem to work is stressful.

“Be grateful for the ‘little’ problems your kids have,” Miller says. “When your child gets diagnosed with a serious disease it makes everything else seem unimportant. Be nice to people, you have no idea of the pain they are living through.”

Miller said she didn’t realize how close she and her mom were until she got sick.

“I spend a lot more time with my mom,” Miller says. “She cries at all my doctor’s appointments, which is annoying because I’m a sympathetic crier.”

Even with the infusions, injections and oral medications, Miller will never be completely cured of Systemic JIA.

“It will never be 100 percent gone, remission is possible but rare,” Miller says.

Miller plans to enroll in summer classes at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She has some advice for people who may not be familiar with her illness:

“We aren’t lazy, we aren’t faking it, we do need that handicap tag and just because we’re
young doesn’t mean we’re not disabled.”

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Jessica Wade
OPINION EDITOR

Last Wednesday, in honor of International Women’s Day and inspired by the recent “Day Without Immigrants” demonstration, women across the nation participated in “A Day Without a Women.”

The plan for “A Day Without a Woman” was for women to take the day off from paid and unpaid labor, avoid shopping for one day and to wear red in solidarity. The goal, according to the organizers’ website was for women and our allies will act together for equity, justice and the human rights of women and all gender oppressed people, through a one-day demonstration of economic solidarity.”

The goal of this demonstration was well-intended, unfortunately the outcome was divisive rather than unifying. Instead of uniting women, it separated them into categories of the privileged and those who could not afford to take a day off.

There are women who work minimum wage jobs to support themselves and their families and there are organizations, the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County located in New York, who simply can’t afford to close down for a day. The Advocacy Center is the only center in the area that provides domestic and sexual violence services to women.

“Our 20 staff will not strike,” the center’s executive director Heather Campbell told the Ithaca Voice. “Not because we don’t collectively support the issues that the strike represents, but because we know all too well what it means for a survivor of domestic or sexual violence to not receive the support and care that they deserve.”

The strike was not well thought out, but that’s not to say the problems facing women aren’t protest-worthy. On the contrary, in this new age of continual attacks on Planned Parenthood and very few women in the Trump administration, women and minorities should continue to stand up and protect their rights.

However, we are stronger when we stand in unity.

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Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Sophie Ford
MANAGING EDITOR

Tens of thousands of years ago, human beings began leaving their mark on the world through paintings made on the walls of caves, carved sculptures and incisions made into rock. Before we as a species had even developed any form of writing system, our history was recorded in these pieces of art. Thousands upon thousands of years later, Francis Scott Key wrote the words to perhaps the most highly regarded song in the United States: The Star Spangled Banner.

Whole generations of children who grew up in the late 20th century were educated and inspired daily by
visits to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Visual art, music and public access broadcasting all have something in common: they are mediums directly threatened by Donald Trump’s proposal to slash funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.

Plans to cut funding to the NEA and the NEH came to light over the past week as part of a memo featuring a proposed hit list of various programs to cut in order to reduce spending. However, the NEA’s budget last year was $148 million, a mere pittance at only .004 percent of the total federal budget for the year. It’s a drop in the bucket in terms of federal spending, but the small amount allocated to these endowments goes towards offering grants to artists and performers and funds many public television networks across the country.

It’s increasingly clear that the proposed defunding of these programs is less of a shortcut to cutting federal spending, and more of a direct attack of the existence of the arts in the United States as a whole. Proposed attacks on federal spending to the arts aren’t new, they existed back in the time of the conservative president Ronald Reagan. Attacks on arts funding have in the past reared their heads in response to controversial works of art that challenged what society viewed as “proper” or “acceptable.” In simpler terms, attacks have been made on art for being deemed too liberal.

But not all works are even so divisive in nature. PBS would be one victim of cuts to federal funding of the arts, and also has drawn fire many times in the past for holding some sort of liberal bias.

One specific PBS show that has drawn fire is Sesame Street, an educational show targeted at children. Conservative author Ben Shapiro criticized the show for being so bold as to suggest that conflict should be resolved peacefully if possible, and that children should be accepting and understanding of those with different skin colors than themselves.

Despite political affiliation, what opponents of the arts fail to realize is the arts are integral to the human experience as a whole. It is impossible to go a day without being exposed to some aspect of artistic or creative expression. The clothes we put on each morning, the music we listen to on the radio while commuting to work and the colors of paint on the walls in our offices and classrooms are all a result of artistic expression and decision making. Furthermore, the arts exist in part to tell us truths, oftentimes uncomfortable truths. The peace sign was created as a response to the very real threat of nuclear violence and popular music to this day touches on themes of inequality.

The current dominant political party, headed up by none other than Donald Trump, has frequently lambasted the media for seeking truths, ignoring facts under the defense of “fake news.” It is of no surprise that Trump now too comes after the arts, a medium which consistently tell us how things were, how things are now, and inspires us to be better.

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