Monday, March 3, 2014


A Violent Standoff With Students and Police in Venezuela

The nation of Venezuela has recently been under a dark cloud of violence and unrest. On February 4th, students from the ULA Tachira campus in San Cristobal took to the streets en masse to protest against a sexual assault on a first-year college student. Students were fed up with all the crime in their college town, but—more importantly—with the fact that the police had failed to investigate or make any arrests.

            The police reacted with severe violence: unarmed protesters were tear-gassed, severely beaten and shot with rubber bullets. On the second day, more students and local residents reacted to such brutality by gathering in the streets again. Unfortunately, the violence escalated. At the time of writing nearly 500 students have been arrested, and it begs the question, who is their government serving? In a country where president Nicolas Maduro has called the protestors, “fascist” it appears that any opposition to government is equated with extremist dissent. Quite the contrary, students initially gathered in protest to call for better security on their campus.

            By now, hundreds of violent attacks on unarmed protesters have brought together large segments of the Venezuelan population to question the integrity of their government officials. For the Venezuelan people, it is now about freedom of speech and a myriad of unjust treatment in certain sectors of the country. The Venezuelan National Guard has intervened and continues to use brutal force to suppress all demonstrators (USA Today has released a video of an unarmed woman being dragged across the street, beaten, then taken away by several National Guard soldiers) .

            To add to the turmoil, President Maduro has installed an internet shutdown across the country, and has taken certain news channels off Venezuelan television. There has been a warning call to many journalists who attempt to cover the demonstrations. In spite of this, the news outlets that remain intact report the violent chaos in a light that demonizes the protesters. Such a regime has been called into question by organizations like, Table for Democratic Unity (MUD) after protesters were shot dead. Under the supervision of Henrique Capriles, MUD has called to end such brutality from the armed forces, and to balance the inflation that feeds into the country's high crime rate. This proclamation has been the center point of unity for many Venezuelans.

 The current crisis has led many business owners to close their shops early, and public transportation has ceased in many areas in the city of Caracas. Locals have been using old furniture to build barricades along the streets and the smell of tear gas has coated the area.

How will this end? Mr. Capriles has stated that if the rest of the Venezuelan people in further sectors of the country don’t rally in defense of the appalling treatment to their own people, nothing will change.

-Nina Granados

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Wendy Davis Announces her bid for Texas Governor and I Don’t Know About You but My Fingers are Crossed

Those of you who remember Democratic Senator Wendy Davis’ commendable eleven-hour filibuster of a Texas bill designed to strip women of reproductive choice and close the doors of thousands of abortion clinics, will be pleased to know that Davis is now running for governor of Texas. Abortion rights are not the only issue that Davis has taken a strong progressive stance on. She also filibustered a motion to cut 5.4 billion dollars from Texas’ public school budget in 2011 and has advocated for measures to improve treatment and counseling for American veterans, stronger water and transportation infrastructure (which is something you’ll realize it desperately needs if you’ve ever been to Texas and seen how smoggy and polluted the city air is), and worked to pass bipartisan legislation to ensure equal pay for women which, of course, governor Perry promptly vetoed.
It will be a difficult campaign trail for Davis. Texas has not elected a Democratic governor in over two decades. Opponents call her “abortion Barbie” and insist she is too stupid (as a woman?) to be governor. Funny considering she holds a degree from Harvard. When this is pointed out conservatives backtrack and criticize her for “neglecting” her child while she pursued an education, even though she did this with the full support and assistance of her husband. It’s a shame that the very things we appreciate the most as a culture––self-reliance, education, and dedication to one’s careers are still stigmatized and attacked when a woman embodies them rather than a man. If we are truly a country dedicated to “equal opportunity” then we need to support women, particularly mothers, who work or pursue higher education out of either personal desire or necessity. I think this also means we need to not act surprised by stay at home fathers or female breadwinners. There is no one way a family has to look in order for it to function, as long as the foundation of love and security is there.

If Wendy Davis wins the race for governor in such a traditionally Republican state, it will be an important sign that change really is coming to this country. As gay marriage bans across the country drop like flies, and women like Wendy Davis and Elizabeth Warren “speak truth to power” as the New York Times eloquently put it, we are witnessing patriarchal attitudes about women and the family dissolve before our eyes. And I say good riddance.


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The Curse of Cursive?

Ever wish you could write or speak a secret language that others cannot understand? Well, it seems that many of us know how to write a dying language. This can go either way. You, fellow reader, belong to one of two schools of thoughts that can be summed up as such:

Here’s a list of some things you can do in cursive: Write a letter to your grandmother Gertrude, sign a check (from your parents’ bank account, of course), jot down notes in a journal (do people still keep journals?), write a fancy letter to your admirer in fountain ink and roll it up into a bottle to drift across the sea, evoke a tone of sincerity when explaining to your parents why you played baseball in the house and shattered their backyard door, or even, wait, do people still do any of those?

Since the 70s, many school curriculums across the US have been phasing out cursive handwriting. With technology creeping into classrooms, homes, pockets, and most likely hands, it seems that even writing in print is outdated.

Many of my fellow BC peers carry around their laptops to “take notes” during class. While many of their intentions are pure, it seems they cannot resist a casual email or social media “check,” which eventually leads to full-fledged mind occupation that has absolutely nothing to do with the class. Even if they are strictly copying the empty words coming out of their instructors’ mouths, it is for naught. Research done by Psychology Today proves that one’s notes are extremely important when assessing the understanding of both factual and conceptual material. When given the same lecture, students with computers managed to write more quantitatively, but nonetheless mindlessly. Students who jotted down notes put the lecturer’s words into their own concepts and therefore retained the information better. Even more surprisingly, students who wrote in cursive scored significantly higher on the exam compared to the caffeinated typists.

Which way is the write way? That’s up to you. I think students should still learn how to write cursive. If I ever have children of the human species (my cat may be reading this), and cursive is not in their school’s curriculum, I will make it my job to teach them, or hire someone who has more patience and benevolence. Maybe it’s my nostalgia, but I think cursive is an art, a part of our country’s history. I remember passing notes throughout my primary school career in fancy cursive, which is also now extinct because of texting. You know that old grumpy man who answers, “Because it’s good for ya!” after every thoughtful question asked by a child? Yeah, that’s me.

Ba humbug,

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#LiveTweeting the Oscars

In case you were unaware, the Oscars happened last night.

I’ll give that a minute to sink in…

I’m not sure where the focus of my commentary should lie, so I’ll just comment on what stood out to me.

For one, I’ve been fastidiously drafting a proposal to Ellen DeGeneres, in which I ask her to host my life. There’s something so admirable about how she can always be so funny, quirky, and witty without offending anyone. And in today’s day and age, that’s no easy feat (since we’re offended by everything). Given the controversy Seth MacFarlane’s “Boob Song” yielded at last year’s Oscars, there was no better way to redeem the integrity of the event than to have Ellen host.  She consistently struck the perfect balance between earnest, good-natured humor and entertainment. And her selfie with the nominated stars, which incidentally “broke” Twitter, is my new phone background. I’m not ashamed.

Despite my occasional reservations with the victors, I love award shows. They unite the country under a common bond of and appreciation for art. I particularly love when the hosts weave inside jokes into the night’s routine: Ellen poked fun at Jennifer Lawrence’s infamous Oscar trip last year, and referred to “Her” as Meryl Streep rather than the academy nominated film. We, as a country, are a part of these inside jokes. And anyone who’s over the age of 12 knows that being a part of inside jokes is like being part of an exclusive club. Last night, every American who watched the Oscars was part of a club.

Social media has made this club even tighter. The advent of “live tweeting” has allowed the country to interact with one another during award ceremonies and share their comments with the world. In a matter of seconds, an event at the Oscars turns into the year’s biggest inside joke, and we share in the laughter. If I had to guess, John Travolta was probably this year’s biggest inside joke. After egregiously introducing Tony-award winning singer and actress Idina Menzel as “Adele DaZeme,” (a totally fictitious name) Twitter and Facebook burst into an uproar, a Twitter account was made for “Adele DaZeme (I’d provide you with the link, but the account was suspended. This happened in under an hour, guys.), and articles about the error proliferated across the web. We’re ruthless.

But, still: How often can we laugh together as a country? Social media curmudgeons will argue that live tweeting is annoying and that Facebook and Twitter are forums for people who don’t have anyone to speak to and share their “useless” opinions with, but at the end of the day, aren’t we the ones reading them?

I can’t help but appreciate that I’m part of a community. Last night, celebrities were tweeting about the event, some of my professors were commenting, and so were my friends who all attend colleges in various parts of the country. I don’t get to communicate with the world often, let alone laugh with it. How do you feel about live tweeting?

-Alex Hajjar

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