Tags Posts tagged with "Opinion"


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Photo Courtesy of Cafepress

Jessica Wade

At the time this article is written massive protests are taking place in Venezuela that so far have resulted in the death of at least two people, Russian bombers are nearing Alaska, tensions are growing in the North Korea, hundreds of Syrians are attempting to evacuate their country and the UK Parliament is calling for a snap election. The reason I know all of this is going on in the world is the same reason I can write this article—freedom of the press.

Those who report the news are finding it a bit more difficult to do so under Donald Trump’s presidency, however, Trump is not the inventor of bad relations with the press.

More quietly, President Obama’s press operation attempted to block Fox News reporters from interviews, attempted to block certain officials from speaking to journalists and prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined.

This disdain for the press didn’t move into the White House with the Trump administration, it has been developing for some time. However, the frequency and volume at which Trump discredits the press is unique. Past presidents have at least pretended to support the first amendment when it pertains to a free media.

During his first day in office, Trump called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on Earth.” Since then, he has labeled legitimate reporting as “fake news” and has blocked multiples news organizations from attending his press briefings.

All of this comes at a time when polls find the public’s trust in the media is at an all-time low. To some, news organizations are too liberal, too conservative or don’t report on events that actually matter.

In reality, some of these opinions are justified. Many big media companies failed to see the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency, and liberal companies such as CNN report news very differently than the more conservative Fox News, and both get things wrong occasionally.

Journalists make mistakes, that’s the reality of free press. But there is another reality to also consider.

Forty-eight journalists were killed in 2016. Within the past month, a crime reporter was shot and killed in Mexico City, a Somaliland journalist has been detained, multiple journalists are jailed for covering protests in Russia, a Nigerian blogger and his family are be-ing threatened after publishing news critical of their government and a Syrian journalist was killed by an airstrike March 13.

The information news organizations provide to many United States citizens who occasionally complain about said news organizations, is information many citizens of many other countries don’t have access too. The free press of this country is something journalists all around the world fight for, are jailed for, beat-en for, threatened for and die for.

It’s a common statement—a free press is nec-essary for a healthy democracy. A free press also needs democracy, there can’t be one without the other.

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Andrew D. Bartholet

In this age of political correctness, we can see the delicate landscape of universities erode around us into what I call “The Casualties of GroupThink.”

William H. White Jr, an American intellectual, coined the term, GroupThink, in a 1952 issue of Fortune Magazine.

The term has evolved to describe the social phenomenon where individuals in groups begin to adopt common ideologies with one another, and where dissenting opinions and controversy are ousted in favor of consensus and conformity.

This dangerous phenomenon can be observed at universities across the United States, where significant portions of student bodies become radicalized against social injustices including racism, sexism and various other discriminatory “institutions.” GroupThink has mobilized student bodies across the United States on a scale not seen since the Vietnam era, and the clout and influence of these radical groups has permeated the administrative policy and curriculum of many American Universities.

In the fall semester of 2015, Andrea Quenette, a communications teacher on track for tenure at the University of Kansas, was asked to leave KU after students complained she was racially insensitive during a class discussion about racism: Dr. Quenette used a racially charged word to highlight a specific example of racial prejudice. During the time I spent at KU, in that same semester, I felt overwhelmed by the relentless badgering and questioning from yippy-enlightened professors and students, that proved to be unavoidable distractions. Everyone drank the Kool-Aid. If a student didn’t, they risked being marginalized as racists or “socially unaware.”

GroupThink pushed a majority of KU personnel to be more concerned with identifying and acknowledging cultural issues, rather than seeking rational and comprehensive solutions to the most tangible issues the community faced. Furthermore, the integrities of the student body’s freedom of speech and liberal education were severely compromised. Unfortunately, these deficiencies are not unique to KU, but impact many campuses across the country–notably Yale, which recently commissioned a committee to oversee the renaming of its various colleges (possibly even the university itself) in a vain act of dissociation with slave owning benefactors.

The real controversy arises in the pursuit of solutions rather than the acknowledgment of problems. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many students become more concerned with awareness rather than change. We like to forget the ‘act’ in activism, and why wouldn’t we? No one can be labeled a racist by merely agreeing that racism exists, but if someone offers an idea about how racism, or any of its null effects, may be mitigated, they risk being labeled a racist for misrepresenting or discounting a serious issue.

The fact of the matter is that many issues like racism and sexism are serious, and they deserve serious discussions and purposeful action, not just shallow awareness and empty gestures. Furthermore, any activism or philanthropy intended to aid these issues requires a certain degree of respect and prudence that has been absent on college campuses these past several years. Such is the calamity of GroupThink, where free thought, free speech and the fluid dissemination of ideas necessary for pragmatic solutions, are the casualties, and vanity and safe spaces are the spoils.

I am not so naive that I believe UNO is immune to this plague that burdens many other universities, and I hope my peers, administrators and teachers are not either. While it is my intention to “raise awareness” of GroupThink, I would be a hypocrite if I stopped there. I believe there are three core activities that help people avoid GroupThink, and I invite all of my fellow Mavericks to join me in these practices.

One: Read as much as possible, more than what is required in class and certainly more than what is featured on Facebook’s newsfeed. Share your unique knowledge with friends and classmates. It is important that people in such close-knit communities, such as college campuses, not all read the same books or articles. The constant influx of information is essential to any healthy academic ecosystem.

Two: Think small, and pick one or two issues that you are truly passionate about, and lead the community in purposeful action that will bring about comprehensive change where it is needed most.

Three: Never stop asking questions, and never stop seeking answers. Questions and answers are the only real instruments of knowledge and wisdom at our disposal. Knowledge is in the number of answers one has acquired, and wisdom is in the quality of the questions one has learned to ask.

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Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Jessica Wade

The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission made a surprising decision Wednesday to deny the renewal of the liquor licenses of four stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska.

The village of Whiteclay is small, even by Nebraska standards. With about 15 official residents, according to the 2000 Census, the village has four liquor stores and illegally supplies alcohol to the Pine Ridge Reservation located 400 yards north of Whiteclay in South Dakota.

Saying that Whiteclay has an alcohol problem is a colossal understatement. An investigation by KETV found the village sells 3.5 million cans of beer each year, mostly to Pine Ridge residents.

Activists have been advocating for a solution to Whiteclay and Pine Ridge’s alcohol problems and the many problems that come with it.

Many of the children born in Whiteclay or nearby suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, and an estimated one out of every four children born on the Pine Ridge Reservation suffer some degree of birth defect due to alcohol.

This rampant alcoholism is also blamed for cases of domestic abuse, sexual assault and a devastatingly high rate of suicide among Pine Ridge youths. The average life expectancy on Pine Ridge is 50 years.

Opponents of the decision to revoke the stores’ liquor licenses argue that people will simply find other ways to buy alcohol. UNO professor and author of multiple publications on Native Americans, Bruce Johansen said that it is possible for other sources to emerge.

“The real question may be: what is going to happen to all the people who have been drinking all that
beer,” Johansen said. “Most of them come from the reservation. Alcohol is an addictive substance, and some other source of supply may develop.”

Johansen said there is also the argument of “freedom.”

“It’s about time, and I hope the decision is upheld during whatever appeals the storeowners and the beer companies have at their disposal,” Johansen said.

If they follow past procedure, they’ll argue their case in terms of ‘freedom’. The stores have a right to sell the Indians beer, and the Indians have a right to get drunk, they have argued. Thomas Jefferson must be rolling over in his grave.”

While it is impossible to say whether or not closing the liquor stores in Whiteclay will solve the areas many problems, it is a better solution than turning away and doing nothing. The people of Whiteclay are Nebraskans, and it’s time fellow Nebraskans acknowledged their plight.

This is a problem that won’t be solved overnight, but by making a move to close down the liquor stores, The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission has taken the first step necessary in solving any problem: acknowledging that a problem exists.

“Finally, Nebraska has quit avoiding the Whiteclay issue,” Johansen said. “It has taken a long time, and I doubt that the battle is over.”

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Jeff Turner

Being around Heath Mello is electrifying. The man has a commanding presence that could persuade people of almost anything. The night of the primary, Mello was out there talking to constituents, and he smiled, like every politician. However, a sincerity was coming from Mello. The guy was talking to these people, and maybe he was genuine – maybe he wasn’t, but it wouldn’t be ludicrous to say that he was good friends with everyone in the room, whatever the truth is tossed aside.

The notable response will be that a candidate should be about policy, and have substance, and it shouldn’t be about how ‘well liked’ they are. Mello is ‘well liked’, and that would be essential to his term as Mayor, the biggest reason being that people are more likely to listen to someone they can stand to be around. With being ‘well-liked’, comes an aptitude for persuasion. That would be all Mello would need to adapt to the needs of the people of Omaha as the policy of the day changed.

Our current mayor does not seem to demonstrate that trait. Despite what claims Mayor Stothert might make (no one really wants to seem like they’re nerve wracking to be around), the evidence shines through.

None more so painfully obvious than the statement from Police Chief Tim Dunning saying that he had blocked her cell phone number. He ended up endorsing Mello.

Stothert claimed during her first debate that people didn’t like to work with her because “she’s a leader.” While it is true that if one focuses on being liked by everyone; they will be lost in the tide, there is also something to be said for the leader that can command inspiration and convince people to follow him or her and work with him or her of their own volition. That person is Heath Mello.

A criticism of Mello that keeps coming up is how nervous he seems to distinguish himself from Stothert. Mello is a moderate democrat, and so it is fitting that he adopts a style of campaigning that is reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s initial run for governor of Arkansas. Charm and persuasion take center stage. Unfortunately, he will have to hit her on something tangible. As lovely as the idea is, a candidate cannot win without at least one attack ad, it’s not realistic.

Mello ought to hit Stothert on the bus systems. The buses are hard to come by, it’s hard to not find a bus in many other towns. Omaha, in this regard, is more reminiscent of a small town than a sprawling metro. The city has a surplus, and the bus systems demand funding.

Mello also ought to focus on events where he meets constituents in person. There is a genuine difference between seeing him on TV and meeting him. It is a difference that could win Mello the race if properly utilized.

Heath Mello will bring a fresh new perspective into Omaha politics, and especially into the Nebraska Democratic party, which has largely been dominated by old white men (Rep. Ashford, Senator Kerrey, Senator Nelson, Mayor Suttle). His policy flaws pale in comparison to what he could get done with pressure.

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Photo Courtesy of Times

Jessica Wade

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

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

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

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.