Many long-time Buffalo residents will tell you that decision makers for the city made three enormous mistakes throughout the 20th century: They put Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, they put UB's new campus in Amherst, and they built the Kensington Expressway, more colloquially known as the "33." It doesn't look like much can be done about those first two mistakes, but plans are in the works to do something about the third. The Kensington Expressway conveniently allows drivers to get from the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, near Interstate 90 in Cheektowaga, to the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus in downtown Buffalo in about 10 minutes or less on a day without a lot of traffic. There's no need for drivers to have to deal with the treacheries of the ever-deteriorating East Side. The irony is that much of the deterioration has been caused by the expressway itself. East Side businesses and neighborhoods have suffered greatly since the expressway's construction. Commuters have stopped driving through the city's old business strips, leaving local establishments unattended. Perhaps even worse is the expressway's design. The high-speed road is in a deep trench far below the original street's gridline, tearing a hole in Humboldt Parkway, which was originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted – the man responsible for designing Delaware Park and New York City's Central Park. The good news is that plans have been proposed to fix the once-thriving East Side parkway. Three plans currently exist for remodeling the system. Two of these plans are both very similar and very expensive. In essence, they propose to convert a large portion of the Kensington Expressway into a tunnel. Humboldt would retain two lanes of traffic on each side, and a park would be built on top of the tunnel. The third plan, while a lot more drastic, is a lot less expensive and holds the most promise. Mayor Byron Brown has proposed completely burying the expressway and converting Humboldt Parkway into a modern, eight-lane urban boulevard with a lower speed. The new road would both restore Olmsted's vision and bring commuters back to the East Side, which would hopefully revitalize an area in desperate need of some help. If the city is going to pursue this project at all, it might as well go big – and cheap – and decide on the third option. While the first two would keep commuters happy in the short-term, the third would make the East Side both visually and economically appealing. If the expressway were simply converted into a tunnel, the big problem wouldn't be solved, as commuters would still bypass the area. The fix is not so simple, however. Though urban boulevards like Brooklyn's Ocean Parkway – upon which Brown's proposal is modeled – have been extremely successful in other cities, things aren't going to improve overnight. If this project were undertaken, local planners and businesses would have to join in the efforts and invest in the area surrounding Humboldt Parkway. An improved public transportation system along the route would also quiet the potential complaints of commuters. Other cities have proven that urban expressways do more to hurt local economies than they do to improve traffic congestion. Buffalo needs learn from such mistakes. Better late than never.
For many Americans, the world changed on September 11, 2001. Perhaps more than anything, it made people realize that in the 21st century, the nature of our enemies has drastically changed. In the 20th century, our enemies were very well defined and easily visualized, as they were entire nations. Though the leaders of these rival nations could do a fair amount of damage with their power and self-interests, they were also responsible for the protection of huge populations. Today, we are not fighting against a nation that can be pointed out on a map. We are fighting against invisible terrorist groups that have little regard for human life, whether it is their own or somebody else's. These groups are also not responsible for the protection or well being of anybody else, as a government is, which makes them much more dangerous and harder to predict. Experts believe there is enough nuclear material (mostly uranium and plutonium) floating around the world to make some 120,000 nuclear bombs. In this day and age, nobody can afford this material falling into the wrong hands. It is not an issue that solely pertains to the United States —it is one that applies to the entire world. President Obama has realized this, and admits that the United States has not done nearly enough to try to solve the problem since 2001. While campaigning, Obama pledged to lock up all loose nuclear material in the world during his first four years in office. Though experts say he is not currently on pace to do so, the landmark summit he held in Washington on Monday and Tuesday is a huge step in the right direction. Leaders from 47 different nations assembled over two days to address the issue – which was the largest gathering of heads of state since the foundation of the United Nations in 1945. Progress has already been made. Last week, the United States signed a treaty with Russia that requires both nations to begin reducing their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. In the past few days, the United States has reached agreements with Canada and Mexico to make a research reactor less dangerous and to send used nuclear fuel back to the U.S. Additionally, both Ukraine and Chile announced that they will give up their stockpiles of highly enriched uranium, which can be used to make a dangerous weapon. These announcements are all good signs, but leaders need to show the world more than handshakes and photo opportunities. Real deadlines and stipulations need to be enforced, and each nation must be required to follow up on the promises it makes. Leaders can begin to prove their dedication to taking real action by uniting together and reaching out to nations like Iran and North Korea. North Korea has made efforts to build a nuclear weapon, and Iran is suspected of trying to do so as well. Both nations, however, were not invited to Obama's summit. Perhaps Obama should have extended a welcoming hand to these nations. What good will further alienation of these two nations do for anybody? The snub may provide Iran and North Korea with leverage for not cooperating. The rest of the world needs to figure out a way to effectively reach out and communicate with them. Finally, there needs to be complete transparency regarding the nuclear issue. People have a right to be scared during times like these, and many are asking why addressing this problem has suddenly become so important. Overall, Obama should be applauded for undertaking such an ambitious effort. He has shown that all of the people of the world have a common problem and he has put the United States at the forefront of the problem's solution.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino was starting a movement. He stood at the Ellicott Square Building last Monday and announced his candidacy for New York governor in front of an emphatic Buffalo crowd waving orange and red banners. Paladino, a wealthy Buffalo businessman, talked about being the only conservative with true right wing views while voicing his disappointment with how Albany was running the state. "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore," Paladino said. But no amount of Network quotes will save the 63-year-old tea partier's campaign now. On Monday, WNYmedia.net gained access to a plethora of Paladino e-mails sent to his listserv of political buddies and business associates. The digital messages included racist messages and raunchy e-mails, including a bestiality video involving a female and a stallion. Talk about halting momentum. Despite possessing a large fortune that was going to fund his campaign, Paladino was viewed as an underdog to former congressman Rick Lazio, among others. A poll, released on Tuesday, that surveyed New York republicans showed Lazio as the overwhelming favorite. The Quinnipiac University poll, which questioned voters from April 6-11 (before the e-mails hit the Internet), showed that 34 percent of respondents favored Lazio, while 11 percent supported Paladino. Forty percent of respondents were undecided. And unless those in doubt are into e-mails containing a video of an African tribal dance with the caption "Obama inauguration rehearsal," many won't be electing Paladino in the Republican primary, much less in November's election. Those supporting the man who calls his own campaign a "crusade" say that New Yorkers shouldn't pay attention to private e-mails while the state hemorrhages money and jobs. I wonder how you can turn a blind eye to such blatant acts of racism, among other things. Personally, I won't ignore these actions by a man vying to lead my state. Ignore the controversial views for a moment. Obviously many are turned off by Paladino's anti-abortion, anti-same sex and pro-gun stances. This is more about irresponsibility and immaturity than anything else. Sure, we all sometimes share risqué videos and photos with each other, but we don't need a governor who is like all of us. There are important issues that need to be settled, and I don't want my governor sharing racist photos when he should be signing SUNY bills. Paladino is going to need the $10 million he plans to spend on his campaign if he wants to resurrect his chance in the race. Right now, Paladino and associates are already trying to spin this to show that he is the victim. "It figures that members of the party who brought us record taxes, record spending and a record debt would want to change the topic from reform to having sex with horses and S&M parlors," said Michael Caputo, Paladino's campaign manager. Maybe Paladino could have prevented the switch in discussion by possibly not sending bestiality videos and racist photos: most New Yorkers don't exactly trust a governor with these kinds of tendencies to lift the state out of a deep hole. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tracy McGrady, Rashard Lewis, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal and Kobe Bryant all have something in common. They entered the NBA straight out of high school and though they are still young, they seem a lot older on the basketball court. When these players controversially declared for the NBA Draft in the mid-'90s, general managers and fans alike wondered if they would have extra-long careers, or if every NBA player is limited to the same amount of years. We are now starting to learn the answer to this question. Have you seen Tracy McGrady or Jermaine O'Neal play lately? They are 30 and 31, respectively, but they look more like 40-year-old veterans out on the court. Former all-star Kevin Garnett is only 33, but is currently breaking down before our eyes, while Rashard Lewis' numbers have dropped in each of the last three seasons. Maybe David Stern was right to create an age limit for the NBA. Maybe kids coming out of high school need a couple of years in college to develop and prepare for the pros. College players play between 30 and 40 games a season compared to 82 in the NBA. While college players were practicing less, playing less games and taking classes, teens that went straight to the pros immediately subjected their bodies to the rigors of the NBA. Take Jason Kidd and Steve Nash for example. These two star NBA point guards continue to produce after long careers. Kidd, who is in his 21st season, is currently gearing up for a playoff run with the Dallas Mavericks. Nash, at 36, is the undisputed leader of the Phoenix Suns and is averaging 16.6 points and 11 assists per game this season. Oh, and did I mention the most important part? Kidd played two years at the University of California and Nash had a four-year college career at Santa Clara. Is it a coincidence that players like Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, and Andrew Bynum continually suffer injuries at their young ages? Some people may argue that Kobe Bryant's (31) work ethic could have him five or six years of great basketball left in him. However, Bryant, who is arguably the best player ever to come directly out of high school, may not be as invincible as we think he is. Bryant has suffered from numerous injuries this year, signs of an aging body that has gone through 13 grueling NBA seasons. Kobe has played in 1,178 NBA games through March, and though he hasn't experienced a substantial drop off, doesn't seem to have the same quickness in his first step or the same lift in his jump shot that he once did. It seems as if it isn't the age of these prep-to-pro stars that matters, but rather how long they have played in the NBA. Which list will Kobe join: The list of Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller, and Julius Erving who thrived in their mid-thirties, or the list of Jermaine O'Neal, Tracy McGrady, and Kevin Garnett, who suffered a severe decline once they hit the age of thirty? If the fate of his fellow prep-to-pro stars is any indication, then it seems that Kobe will be part of the latter. More importantly, what does this mean for the last group of high school stars gone pro? At age 25, Lebron James may not have as long as people think he does to win a championship. He has played 592 games in his seven seasons, 324 more than Jordan played when he was 25. Will LeBron age in basketball years, or prove to be the exception to the rule? E-mail: email@example.com
Last Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the alcohol regulatory board in the state of Virginia can ban alcohol-related advertisements in student newspapers. The 2-1 decision will cause two of the state's college newspapers- Virginia Tech's The Collegiate Times and the University of Virginia's The Cavalier Daily- to each lose approximately $30,000 in advertising revenue. What's $30,000 these days? Think of it this way—if The Spectrum lost that much money, you wouldn't be reading this right now. Initially, the publications successfully challenged the ban as a lower court found that it was in violation of the advertisers' and newspapers' First Amendment rights. The federal appeals court reversed that ruling, however, citing previous precedents that establish the First Amendment as not protecting advertisements that promote illegal activity. The illegal activity in this case is underage drinking. The court decided that there is a direct link between alcohol-related advertisements in college newspapers and the demand for alcohol amongst underage students, citing "alcohol vendors want to advertise in college student publications." According to the court, the college newspapers failed to produce evidence that specifically contradicts the link. The dissenting opinion, written by Judge Norman K. Moon, accused the link established by the majority opinion of being little more than "speculation and conjecture," which would not qualify it as enough to block the First Amendment rights of the advertisers and newspapers. Moon cited a similar case in Pennsylvania in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit blocked what was virtually the same dilemma as the current one in Virginia. The judges in the Pennsylvania case, which involved the student newspaper at the University of Pittsburgh, decided that banning alcohol-related advertisements in the newspaper would do little, if anything, to stop students from drinking. They realized that alcohol ads are everywhere—television, billboards, other newspapers, magazines and the radio. The author of the Pennsylvania case's decision, Samuel Alito, argued that there is not sufficient evidence to support the theory that removing alcohol-related ads from a student newspaper will reduce underage drinking. Alito has since been promoted to the Supreme Court. Long story short: College students are already blitzed with alcohol-related advertisements regardless of where they come from and a large portion of them are going to find a way to drink whether they saw it in their student newspaper or not. The court, along with the alcohol regulatory board, is also making it sound like the advertisements are specifically targeting students who are underage. Taking upperclassmen, graduate students, faculty and staff into account, it is safe to say that a significant portion (if not a significant majority) of a college newspaper's readership is indeed over the age of 21. In addition, even if an underage student is seduced by an alcohol-related ad, bars, restaurants and stores should be checking for proper identification, which would prevent the potential problem. The federal court got the ruling wrong. A decision that will do very little to hinder underage college students from drinking will in actuality hinder students from producing and reading their campus publications.
I'm an English major. It is part personal choice, part lifestyle and part destiny. Since as long as I can remember, I have eaten, breathed and pooped books. If it were possible to have literature pumped into my veins, I would be first in line to do it. Since I arrived at UB in the fall of 2007, there was never any question of what my major would be. My working relationship with the English Department and its staff at the University at Buffalo has been second to none. I believe from the bottom of my soul that UB has one of the most distinguished and brilliant English staffs, which has inspired and showed me how to become the teacher and writer I want to be. That being said, here are a few constructive ideas and suggestions for the UB English department, for both the course selection and the major requirement itself. Number one: Make more English courses, especially prerequisites, exclusive to English majors. Right now, there is only one course that is solely available to those registered for the major: ENG 301, Criticism. The wide availability for any student, ranging in majors from communication to mechanical engineering, to register in upper-level English classes is silly. These classes are usually very small and required by English majors for graduation, and unnecessary lack of seat availability causes a lot of drama and panic every semester for those who want to graduate on time. Number two: Expand the infamous Earlier Literature and Author courses into two course sequences. At the moment, the only course offering a two-part sequence is Shakespeare, taught by the incomparable Barbara Bono. Many students cringe at the thought of having to take other literature courses before 1830 on authors such as Chaucer or Milton, due to the excessive amount of reading, which leaves people more resentful than appreciative of the material. Personally, I loved my Milton course with Professor Hammill, but would have appreciated the content a lot more if we had had more time to discuss the author's work over another semester. This same suggestion goes for author courses on such literary leviathans as James Joyce. A semester of Joyce's earlier work, followed by another semester focusing on solely Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, would be divine. Number three: Diversify the course offerings and the curriculum. Milton, Shakespeare, and the Bible are great, but what about the international lovelies and giants of literature? Where is The Tale of Genji, a Japanese work thought to be the world's first novel, in UB's whole English catalog? Where is a course on the fabulous Russian writers, with an author's course on Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy? What about the delightful Thousand and One Arabian Nights? the fairy tales of Hans Christan Andersen? the fables of Aesop? Number four: Please offer more creative writing classes. The creative writing workshops currently offered by UB, usually taught by husband-wife team Professors Milletti and Anastasopoulos, are fabulous, but they are offered once a week and usually in the evening. I took courses with them both and had a great time, but would have loved it if more writing courses were offered at different times and different days of the week. With that in mind, I'm ready to take the next step in both my personal and academic life. The last thing I hoped to do when I wrote this column was discourage anyone from pursuing an English degree; I'm simply offering my hopes to the department for future generations. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bills and I have a lot in common. As I prepare to turn 22 years old at the end of the month, it's time to start planning my future. I've called Buffalo my home for two decades and it's time for a fresh start – a change of scenery. Much like myself, the Bills are in need of a fresh start. As the old saying goes, it's out with the old and in with the new at One Bills Drive in Orchard Park. It's time to start planning for the future at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Management has already made moves by naming Buddy Nix its first general manager in three years and lured in the relatively unknown Chan Gailey to succeed the malnourished Dick Jauron. Ok, good. It's a foundation to build upon. But we've been through this before. Since Marv Levy retired from the sidelines in 1997 and John Butler left for San Diego in 2000, the franchise has cycled through five head coaches and three general managers. During that time period, the Bills have qualified for the postseason just once. They haven't won an AFC East divisional crown since 1995 and have beaten the New England Patriots only once since 2001. No matter who is calling the shots in the front office or on the sideline, you can't win football games without the right personnel on the field. Buffalo has failed to recognize that. Enough is enough. Buffalo is in need of a savior – someone to put the Bills back on the map and restore football tradition in the Queen City. Clouds have loomed over the Ralph far too long and it's time for the sun to shine down over 80,000-plus crowds on Sunday afternoons again. Buffalo is in need of Jimmy Clausen. The team has lacked the presence of a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly was under center. Todd Collins, Rob Johnson, Doug Flutie, Alex Van Pelt – (deep breath) – Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm have all had their shot to become the next Kelly in Western New York. All have failed. When I look at Jimmy Clausen, I see a young man with the attitude off the field and ability on the field to turn the franchise around. At just 22 years old, the former Notre Dame quarterback has lived in the spotlight as a highly recruited quarterback since his high school days. In his junior year, he was dubbed by Sports Illustrated as "The Kid with the Golden Arm." After his senior year he was awarded the Hall Trophy award as the U.S. Army National Player of the Year and was named by USA Today as the Offensive Player of the Year. Clausen had an up and down three-year career as the face of Notre Dame football in South Bend, but has come out as NFL-ready as any other quarterback in the upcoming draft. Working under former Fighting Irish head coach Charlie Weis, Clausen has played out of a pro-style offense his entire career. He has experience working from under center and out of the shotgun – something rare nowadays with college quarterbacks. He is a highly competitive and outspoken signal caller that has a keen sense of commanding the huddle and line of scrimmage. For a young player, Clausen knows how to effectively read defensive coverages, make adjustments at the line when he sees fit and manages the offense with precision. The 6-foot 3-inch, 222-pounder is an athletic specimen. He possesses a live arm with a quick release, and displays impressive accuracy in the short passing game. He has the ability to escape the pocket and can make plays on the ground with his feet. What I love most about Clausen, however, is his swagger. He has been in the eye of the media his entire career and has carried himself with his head held high. Like a young Philip Rivers, he has that love me/hate me kind of persona about him and I think it's exactly what Buffalo needs in its locker room. Many are concerned that Clausen doesn't have elite arm strength and a nagging toe raises questions about his durability and drop-back technique. But if St. Louis is willing to spend the top overall pick on a quarterback with a surgically repaired shoulder, I think Clausen's toe is the least of our worries. The Edwards, Fitzpatrick and Brohm experiments have expired. Times are changing in Buffalo and it's time for a fresh face to take over the team. Clausen has the skill set, confidence and arrogance to become the leader of the franchise for years to come. To Mr. Nix and Mr. Gailey: I know you need offensive linemen, but the franchise needs an identity. Do Bills fans and me a favor and draft Jimmy Clausen with the ninth overall pick. You've given us nothing so far this offseason to look forward to regarding the Bills' future. Make Clausen your quarterback and give me a reason to be excited for Buffalo football once again. I've given up my season tickets already. Do me a favor and make me regret my decision on April 22. E-mail: email@example.com
There is always a new fad in healthy living. Not too long ago, red meat was horrendous for the public. Later, with the Atkins diet, red meat was bigger than ever. Healthy eating fads change more than Facebook redesigns. For a very long time, many health experts believed that eating large quantities of fruits and vegetables had a sizable effect on cancer prevention. Many Americans believed that those extra greens gulped down at dinner would keep cancer at bay – until now. A new study by Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York has found that the link between cancer risk reduction and consuming fruits and vegetables is far weaker then originally thought. Many past studies have claimed that eating more healthy foods will reduce cancer risks by as much as 50 percent. Yet if it sounds too good to be true, it normally is. Recent studies have reduced this number to only around 4 percent. This is still a significant, though much more modest, number than previously estimated. Many of these previous studies finding that fruits and vegetables having a tremendous effect on reducing cancer risks were skewed due to other unaccounted for variables. According to Walter Willet, chairman of the Nutrition Department at the Harvard School of Public Health, said, "Earlier investigations were more likely to [survey] health-conscious people." The reason why it's a significant find is that people who are generally healthier types are more likely to agree to be interviewed about their habits than their couch potato cousins. Now, this doesn't give you a free pass to eat whatever you want. The most recent study only looked at the contributions fruits and vegetables make toward fighting cancer, disregarding their effects on other health issues. There is still sound evidence supporting the idea that eating fruits and vegetables decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, the most recent Mount Sinai study shows that eating five servings a day of fruits and vegetables decreases the chance of heart disease and stroke by 30 percent. It also shows that some vegetables, like tomatoes and broccoli, have nutrients that help prevent certain kinds of cancer. Millions of Americans have known this for a long time. Eating healthy doesn't have to be hard and doesn't require cutting out whole sections of foods. The fact is, doing so makes the weight loss more difficult and can actually result in weight gain as these foods are reintroduced. The key is moderation. Don't overindulge with anything; mix in some veggies with your meat. Stay away from fried or pan-seared food on a regular basis and you'll be eating healthier already. Another major factor the study overlooks is exercise, which is a significant component to a healthy lifestyle. Many Americans overlook this factor by just saying eating healthy is enough – but it isn't. Americans should incorporate some cardiovascular activity every day. And no, walking upstairs doesn't count. Hit the gym for 20 minutes and use the stationary bike or treadmill. Everyone has 20 minutes a day, most days, to work out. A healthy lifestyle simply entails eating in the right proportions with a balanced diet and exercising. No gimmicks, no miracle pills. Fruits and vegetables actually can keep the doctor away.
President Barack Obama has issued another major shakeup to the United States foreign policy by dropping threatening language. The current administration is removing such terms like "jihad" and "Islamic extremism" from the United States National Security Strategy in an attempt to bring more Muslim countries into the good graces of the United States. Basically, the United States government is no longer looking at Muslim nations solely through a counterterrorism lens. It definitely follows previous decisions by the president to repair America's image within the International community. Developing solid relationships with Islamic states is actually the correct way to combat terrorism, not waging wars in distant lands. The United States hands out roughly $26 billion dollars in foreign aid in 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About 150 countries receive money from the United States. The five leading countries are Israel, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan and Kenya. Much of the money goes to programs that are humanitarian in nature. The goal is to promote more goodwill. Many Americans have no clue as to what the National Security Strategy is. It isn't just a simple initiative. The document is the framing the policy of protecting the United States. Many who are against this policy shift equate removing the language with the United States ignoring terrorism. That isn't the case. The policy shift signals to other nations that being allies with the United States has many benefits. After all, the United States does have an economy worth $14 trillion. America can move some serious weight in terms of products. The only true weapon against terrorism is marginalizing the terrorists from safe havens. Many who join radical Islam movements have no education and certainly no opportunity for bettering their lot in life. This policy shift also doesn't mean that the United States won't analyze threats against its interests and neighbors. The goal here is to give Muslim nations an opportunity to be viewed as members of the international community, rather than rogue nations that harbor terrorists. Former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake believed in four processes to foster democracy and peace across the globe. First, strengthen the community of major market democracies. That means developing and nurturing relationships with the United States' major allies such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Second, foster and consolidate new democracies with free market economies. New democracies like India and China are emerging democracies with huge economies. Third, America should counter aggression by supporting the liberalization of states hostile to democracy and free markets. That isn't saying America should make regime changes against Islamic nations that are hostile. Take Iran – President Obama was in support of the Green movement when it protested the most recent elections. Lastly, the United States must pursue a humanitarian agenda not only by providing aid, but also by working to help democracy and free markets take root in the regions with the most humanitarian concern. These tenets are all good ideas. By promoting ideals that make this country the envy of the world, America would be able to marginalize radical movements across the globe. Major wars have largely been averted with our allies who have significant economic ties with the United States. The reason is because it doesn't benefit either side because too much is at stake. The goal of the new directive is to bring more countries into the fold and avoid alienating them.
Some things in life come as a complete shock, while others are slightly more foreseeable. I didn't know, for example, that I was going to step in goose doo-doo on the way to campus Tuesday, but I definitely could have predicted that Ricky Martin was gay at least 10 years ago. The last week has been crazy in the sports world. The baseball season kicked off, there were a couple of National Championships played, more football players ran into trouble with the law and Tiger Woods spoke to the media, to name just a few. Amidst all of the mayhem, some events came as a surprise, while others were expected. Let's take a look as some of the big sports stories of the past week and group them as either Utterly Shocking or Completely Predictable. Utterly Shocking
Last week, President Barack Obama revealed a new plan to gradually disarm nuclear stockpiles for both Russia and the United States. The New Start plan seeks to move the entire world toward being nuclear weapon-free. One of the biggest changes from previous administrations is the United States will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries. However, there is a catch. Those countries must fulfill their nonproliferation responsibilities under standing international treaties. That means countries like North Korea and Iran would be on the list of countries that the United States could still use nuclear weapons against. Now many Republicans fear that constantly cutting down the United States nuclear arsenal will leave America less secure. After the proposed treaty comes into effect, though, the United States will still have 700 missiles and bombers that can carry 1,550 warheads. That's enough nuclear weapons to bomb a country back to the Jurassic period. The real benefit of the treaty is that it allows for the Russian and US governments to inform the other of how many warheads it has and where they are stored. To keep all players honest, verification requirements will also be put into place. Mainly, it continues the dialogue on cutting down arsenals. The fact is, neither Russia nor the United States needs such large stockpiles of nuclear weapons. More importantly, reducing stockpiles also reduces costs for the government in keeping such arsenals. Another highly progressive new policy is ceasing to build new warheads to replace older warheads in the arsenal. This new procedure is surrounded by controversy. Many Democrats are opposed to any action by the United States that could be interpreted as enhancing its nuclear power. The rest of the world sees the United States as finally practicing what it preaches, and the treaty makes nations such as Iran and North Korea feel less pressure to develop nuclear arms. This is, without a doubt, a huge plus. Republicans are trying to paint this deal as Obama appeasing rogue nations. The end result is the United States and Russia trying to show nations they can forgo nuclear arms. It is interesting that Republicans are denouncing actions that even Ronald Regan wanted to accomplish. Regan is the model every modern-day Republican's image is crafted around. But if the world were to go without nuclear weapons, another problem is posed. Nuclear weapons keep countries from attacking one another. The threat of a nuclear war prevents conventional wars from creating catastrophic destruction. The United States and Soviet Union never fought a war. And in the almost 70 years since the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, no country has used a nuclear weapon since. No country has used nuclear weapons because of the fear of mutually assured destruction – retaliation that would destroy every living thing on the planet. The case could be made that the most powerful weapon ever developed by man actually ensures peace. The current administration wants to wield this new treaty as a new chip as it argues for tighter penalties on rogue states trying to develop nuclear weapons. It would be unrealistic to ever get rid of nuclear arms. But there's nothing wrong with reducing their number.
I hate the phrase "the American way." Over the course of our country's history, it's been used to justify animosity toward just about anything that's different. We had a period of Communist Party witch hunts, for example, just because communism wasn't the American way. Blacklisting ruined lives, and sometimes the people who were hurt weren't even communists. Today, this kind of paranoia and knee-jerk reaction is still going on. Take the recent health care bill. One of the major complaints I hear against it is that it's socialism, which isn't the American way. Our way, apparently, is all for one and none for all. About 6.9 million people in this country are uninsured, according to the journal Health Affairs. Almost every other industrialized country in the world uses government-funded health care and manages to make it work, albeit with a few hitches. No system will ever be perfect. But many people here aren't willing to make the changes necessary to put publicly-funded medicine into practice, simply because that's not the way we've always done it. If the way we've always done it isn't working, then maybe it's time to stop doing it that way. It seems like it's actually the change factor that most people have a problem with. Schools are essentially socialized, but no one complains about that because it's the way we've always done it. For as many people as Obama inspired with his campaign message of change, he probably alienated almost as many who are afraid of change. This only applies to the big things, of course. Another smaller and more ridiculous example of American pride gone wrong is the time some genius decided we should change the name of French fries to freedom fries. Freedom, of course, is the American way, and foreign things are not. Does it really matter what we call them? Are the French going to take them back if we keep their name attached? Did renaming them make our country stronger? Obviously not, and we all know that. Yet it's somehow more patriotic to name them after our country's ideal – an ideal that has led us into several wars, just because we can't stand the thought of another country doing something different. If it's not a democracy, they're not free, right? It's ridiculous to denounce something just because it's different. The only justifiable reason for opposing the health care bill is having a real problem with one of the new policies. Saying that it's bad because it's socialism is absolutely not a valid reason. Americans need to remember that although we're a world power, we're not perfect. We shouldn't call ourselves the greatest country in the world when we're not even willing to help our own uninsured citizens, as so many other countries do. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hands down one of the most interesting movies I have ever seen is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, directed by Michel Gondry. Not only because I love Kate Winslet, but because the plot is so incredibly interesting. To sum it up without giving too much away, the couple (composed of Winslet and Jim Carrey) have a falling out, and both decide – through a series of twists and turns – to have each other erased from their memory permanently. This concept got me thinking: if you could erase a painful memory from your past, would you? I think this question is pondered a lot during hard times and suffering. You always wish you could erase that person who broke your heart, or that memory that hurts too much to remember. But would you actually go through with it? Throughout the movie the characters go on a journey through all of the times they have spent together, good and bad. This journey reveals a lot about human emotion. As human beings, I think we are always searching for a way to end bad times, get ourselves out of heartache, focus only on the things that make us happy and try to shun negativity and the things that make us upset. Hell, people spend millions of dollars on therapy to get over issues in their past as proof of this theory, but what if they could pay to have them completely removed? Do you think they would? For me, I think back to times in my life when I was at my lowest, times I wish I never had to experience again. But in a way, I believe the bad times are what characterize you as a person. The struggle to persevere through the tough parts of life and get through it with your head held high is what makes you a better person. While you may not believe it at the time, it really will pay off in the end. "Without sadness we would no know joy" is a saying my mom used when I was feeling like I just couldn't carry on anymore. I believe in that statement whole-heartedly. Sure, it might be easier to just erase all the lost friendships and the heartache we have felt in life, but would you be willing to trade all the good times too? Better yet, when you make it through the bad times, doesn't it make you appreciate the good times that much more? I know it works that way with me. The characters in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind realize that you never really know what you have, or how important memories are until they are moments from being sucked away. Cherish your memories, good and bad, because they are what make you who you are. While you might wish you could erase someone, or something, from your mind today, it may come back to help you in the future even if for nothing more then making you a stronger person in the long run. E-mail: email@example.com
As an aspiring journalist, I am very grateful for the rights guaranteed to me by the First Amendment. If I want to write a column criticizing President Simpson, President Obama, or anyone else, I know that I can do so without fear of being arrested. I am proud to live in a country that offers me that right. At the same time, I am glad that there are certain limitations on free speech in this country. For example, if one of my colleagues wanted to write a column claiming that I like to kill and eat puppies, I could sue that person for libel. We are prevented from making unfounded accusations at each other. I am glad this rule is in effect, because without it, anyone could make any crazy claim and we simply can't have that. Unfortunately, issues involving free speech aren't always black and white. There are certain instances where it's a bit more difficult to decide if someone is merely exercising their right to free speech, or if they are crossing the line. When these instances occur, we have to interpret the First Amendment in ways that could have unknown effects on our rights. This is never easy to do. Once such instance came a few weeks ago, when our friends at the Westboro Baptist Church were at it again. If you don't know, they are a church that strongly opposes homosexuality and pickets funerals of U.S. soldiers, claiming that God killed them to punish America for tolerating homosexuals. In other words, they're not the sunniest people around. Naturally, this angers the families of soldiers whose funerals they picket. One angry military father took them to court, claiming they were harassing his family by protesting. The initial court ruling sided with the father, but the higher court overturned it, stating that the First Amendment protected the Church's actions. This is where the issue gets a little bit tricky. Obviously, people should be allowed to be protest. One of the things that make America great is that people can freely state their opinion and that they can rise up and proclaim their dissent with whatever issue they choose. As much as mainstream America might loathe the WBC, and their ultra right-wing views, their claim to protest is just as valid as anyone else's. We can't forget that. That being said, protesting in the middle of someone's funeral is an entirely different issue. Its one thing to gather together to protest something, it's quite another to disrupt a personal affair, and tell the family of a fallen soldier that their loved one is rotting in hell because America isn't willing to exterminate homosexuals. That goes far beyond the right of free speech. That is harassment in the clearest sense, and our courts shouldn't have stood for it. The reason I disagreed with the court's ruling so much here is that they missed what was at stake. It's not the WBC's right to protest that is the problem, it's where they choose to do it. If they were forced to stay a respectable distance from the funeral itself, but still allowed protesting, that would be a happy medium. It would allow the group to keep their free speech, and let the family mourn in peace. It would've been nice if the court had thought this way, but instead they chose to ignore the needs of a grieving family, and allow a violent, hateful group to do whatever they want. It's one thing to not want to infringe on free speech, it's quite another to enable a group of hate-mongering troublemakers. Sadly, our courts chose the latter. For shame. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Things are getting better. Slowly but surely, the unemployment rate is heading south. The most recent numbers are held from the previous month. Unemployment is at 9.7 percent. Another encouraging sign is that an additional 200,000 Americans are looking for work. That means that Americans are becoming more encouraged to look for work because companies are starting to rehire workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute. As far as new jobs being created, it was the largest monthly increase in three years, at 162,000 new jobs. Of course, that isn't enough jobs for the unemployed, but it is only the first step. The other important thing to remember is that the unemployment rate is not a crystal clear way to understand what is occurring in the overall economy. For example, the unemployment rate doesn't count discouraged workers, defined as Americans who are not actively seeking work. If many of the unemployed stop looking for work, the rate can be artificially deflated. Likewise, resuming the search can inflate it. According to Christina Romer, chairman of the President's Economic Council, "Over the last three months, we've added more than a million people to the labor force. And that's actually … a great sign. That is a sign that people who may have … dropped out because of the terrible recession have started to have some hope again and are looking for work." So what does this mean for the average American? Patience must be practiced. The fact is, things are getting better, but slowly. Americans must be flexible and adapt to any working environment. This is not the time to be picky or live outside means in the short term. For the long run, emphasis must be put on developing and marketing new innovations rather than manufacturing them. Many politicians and economic experts are worried about the lack of manufacturing done in the United States. However, manufacturing jobs don't exist in America anymore because it is too expensive to make products in this country. Don't fear, though. Try this: imagine the shape for the life of a new product is a U-shaped curve. The first stage is development of new products. The United States holds more patents in new technologies than any other country in the world. In fact, the United States invests more money in new technologies like nano-technology or biotechnologies then any other country combined. The next part of the curve is the bottom, which is the actual manufacturing of these products. It is also the cheapest part of the production process. For example, Apple makes an iPod nano for about $90, but sells that same iPod for $150. The last part of the U-shaped curve is the marketing and sales of the product. Take the example from before: Apple makes roughly $60 of profit from every iPod sold. That is where the money is – in the development and sales of a product, not the actual manufacturing of it. America will only continue to dominate these areas if it continues to come up with innovative ideas. Hence the reason why green technology has been so widely discussed – because it can generate huge revenues. But it isn't just green technology, it's biomedical research and nano-technology that will allow the United States to be an exporter of ideas. Many have argued that Ph.D.s in this country are flowing out of the country. But remember, most of the companies who hold new technology patents are here in the United States. To de-bunk another myth, many experts argue that nations like India turn out more engineers than the United States. According to the numbers, this is true, but what they don't say is that many of India's engineers come from schools that are equivalent to schools like ITT Tech here in America. So in short, America, make smart decisions about money. For America to remain a dominant economic force, it must continue to export ideas in new fields, not try and fix dying industries. The future is too important to screw up.
New allegations of sexual misconduct by clergymen have blown up the week before Easter. Two separate scandals – one in Ireland and one in the United States – further taint the Roman Catholic Church's image. In Ireland, it was revealed that Cardinal Sean Brady, head of the Irish Catholic Church, was present at meetings where victims of a pedophilic priest were asked to sign vows of silence over allegations of misconduct. Children signed vows of silence. If that isn't an attempted cover-up, what is? But the fun doesn't stop there. The allegations in the United States are not only shameful, they reach high into the Catholic Church hierarchy. Documents released suggest that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict XVI, failed to respond to letters by other members of the clergy about cases of sexual abuse. More specifically, the archbishops were complaining about allegations against Father Lawrence Murphy in 1996. The letters were sent to the Vatican office headed by the current pope. The office sent out no responses. Murphy, who died in 1998, is assumed to have abused about 200 boys at the Saint John's School for the Deaf in Saint Francis, Wis. between 1950 and 1974. The Roman Catholic Church believed that these incidents were isolated in nature. How wrong they were. Isolated incidents happen once in a blue moon, not every other day of the week. The Church knew the numbers and how widespread the problem had become. A report done by the Church in 2004 found that more than 4,000 Catholic priests in the United States had faced sexual abuse charges in the last 50 years. Over 10,000 victims – mainly boys – were involved with such cases. See the problem? Clearly the Catholic Church has been playing the cover-up game for a while, which is undoubtedly a mistake. But the bigger question that needs to be answered is, what was the intent behind these actions? The Church had engaged in the practice of covering up cases of sexual allegations against priests. This decision to proceed with such practices has had extremely harmful effects, like facilitating the spread of sexual misconduct. It has only been a decade since Catholic bishops believed that it was their own duty to protect the church from scandal and, in a terrible judgment call, thought secrecy agreements were in the best interest of the Church. The biggest problem the public has had with all of this mess is the lack of justice for the victims and their families. Father Murphy was never tried for his crimes. Vatican officials have asserted that Murphy was dying and initiating a trial would have meant the main defendant was no longer living. Fine in that particular case, but the Church has usually shielded its priests from criminal trials, instead opting to let the Holy Father determine punishments. It simply isn't enough. The public's trust in one of the most sacred institutions may be unfixable. Years of payoffs to families to keep quiet and relocating alleged pedophiles to other dioceses is inexcusable. It really doesn't matter if the number of abused children is one or one thousand. The crime is reprehensible, and clearly the Church has made poor choices in judgment. But the pope needs to change the way business is conducted on such matters. Allegations of abuse must be turned over to the proper authorities and investigated. The road to salvation for the Catholic Church as a whole is to no longer give payouts to families and have them sign secrecy agreements. No man is above the rule of law, even if he wears a collar.