Monday, February 28, 2011

Mubarak not the next billionaire?

When Mubarak left office people speculated that he had acquired billions of dollars during his time in power. Many said he could be the richest man in the world. But yesterday Mubarak's family was denied permission to leave the country with out special permission. Many family members and friends accumulated fortunes through corrupt means when Mubarak turned a blind eye. The military regime currently in power is trying to eradicate all of the corruption that happened during Mubarak's time in power. Egypt is in the process of reaching out to foreign countries in trying to freeze all of Mubarak's many accounts. So far Switzerland is the first to try and identify all of his accounts and freeze them.
So how much of an effect could this possible have on Egypt's economy where so many live below the poverty line of $2 a day.

Scandal Strikes in Italy. Is Anyone Surprised?

Berlusconi: perv, president or both?

For those of you who haven't been following the adventures of Italy's Prime Minister, hopefully, I can fill you in a bit. First coming to power in 1994 Silvio Berlusconi switched his main career track from media giant to political figure. All three of the elections which he has won were credible, but there is no doubt that his connections have helped his chances (he basically owns the Italian media). The most recent news about Berlusconi, however, may prove to be too much for this political powerhouse.

He has certainly had his run-ins with the justice system before, but having barely won the most recent election, it appears that he may have partied a little too hard. This time, he is being accused of having sex with an under-aged prostitute and then helping her escape petty theft charges. The evidence is apparently fairly solid, and the case is set for April. No connection, but I find it interesting that this is happening at the same time that many of the middle eastern "strongmen" are being taken out of power.

What do you guys think? Should Berlusconi die (politically) at the hands of the court? Will he escape as he has done many times in the past? Are the Italian's being way too lax about their prime minister's conduct, since his entire political career has been filled with fraud and scandal?

The case:

The background:

Sweetened Drinks sell

Just recently I have read these articles about Diet Sodas and healthy alternatives on many reputable websites such as Men's Fitness and Yahoo News. I have been brought to an assumption that pretty much anything is bad for you (within reason and depending on your condition). And I am not saying only natural food is all good for you too because arsenic is natural. Diet soda is a big product in the world especially the US. My question is why are bad products or certain pharmaceutical or herbal products sold that can potentially harm people. Why does the government allow it? Does the some of the money go to the government in the form of taxes or another tie? Cigarettes are sold in the US and they can kill people and the government makes quite a bit off that. The Soda companies such as Coke or Pepsi are huge and diet sodas are a big seller especially for those people who think they are dieting and think they are getting better off. I was a victim to the diet coke trap for a while and now I try to keep it all naturale and I stay at the gym for the extra 10 minutes so I drink my large REGULAR coke at Mcdonalds while I get my Big Mac and large fries with tons of ketchup. And I'll tell you what Coke is an addiction but if you are to drink it, drink the real deal because it not only tastes better, less sugary but it also will not give you a stroke when you are older. You just have to take the stairs instead of the escalader.

My big question is why does the government allow this stuff like Diet Coke? But then again you are responsible for yourself, then if they banned it that would be another extreme I do not want to get into.

I wonder if the US has the most Diet Soda sales in the world?

Guffawing Gaddafi foreshadows special trouble for Libya

Hey y'all. Instead of discussing the Oscars and how the King's Speech won practically everything even though no one watched (just kidding I'm sure it was great in an unconventional way), I want to blog about the situation in Libya. I found this very interesting article in the Economist and another one in yahoo that summarizes and analyzes Libya's current situation and how it is and will remain the bloodiest of all the recent revolutions in North Africa. A perception that I share.

Libya probably is the most backward country out of all those in North Africa despite having the best natural resources in the region. All its misery is thanks to heavy trauma from Italy in World War 2 that lead to the rise of their crazy autocratic leader Gaddafi, who says that this current uprising is the result of Al-Qaeda, America, and drug addicts. Since he took control of Libya in the late 60s, he completely destroyed its bureaucracy, gave all its industries to his crazy friends, denied his citizens any voice in politics or economics, weakened the military so he could stay as the Center of Libya. Even though most of the nations of N Africa had corrupt autocracies backed by the West and other entities, Libya is well... the most screwed up of them all because of its violent past and Gaddafi's stupidity. Therefore it's no surprise that Libya's people decided enough was enough when Tunisia and Egypt starting protesting against their leaders. Yet Gaddafi still doesn't get the message that his time is up as he laughingly tells Amanpour in a rare interview that his people love him and he holds on to the country.

I have these very mixed and ambivalent feelings about the uprisings, especially in Libya. Don't get me wrong, I think its fantastic and inspiring that ordinary citizens from some of the most repressed societies were able to oust leaders that had kept them under their thumbs for decades. But, the situation in Libya throbs with an explosive amount of violence and hate that was absent in Egypt and less apparent in Tunisia. Both sides of this revolution are pairing with tribal leaders that were previously controlled by Gaddafi. These leaders, now sensing a rare opportunity to get in control, are deserting Gaddafi and militarizing these protesters, which is never good. It's also quite clear that Gaddafi is not leaving without a fight, but he will have to leave eventually. The problem with him leaving is that EVERYTHING centered around him. While the nations of Tunisia and Egypt have bureaucracies and infrastructures that will probably keep the nations stable but in the same direction, Libya has little of the same structures and too many repressed people vying for power. For a nation much more oppressed and impoverished, I think that it is in store for years more of turmoil and unrest that might even spread to more peaceful nations like Egypt. This is all why I think that Libya is the most concerning of all these nations.

So what do you think, do you think I am completely wrong in being worried about Libya and that all the other nations had similar violent uprisings? Do you agree with me that Libya is in for worse when Gaddafi leaves or do you think things will work out? Do you think this generation of North Africans will ever taste true democracy or not? And do you think I should write smaller blogs? :)

Yacht to make landfall in Somalia

Just recently two couples from California were captured by Somalian pirates in the Arabian Sea. Another weight on America. What do you think the USA should do? because time is ticking and the pirates are close to the coast of Somalia. The pirates have been known for torturing their victims and making a lot of cashola. They hold 660 captives and these are the first American captives. This will set the tone for America with the Somalia Pirates if they end up paying ransom or doing whatever they do. This causes a catch-22 because if we pay for their release it will be an incentive for them to do it again. Just like when the Somalian pirates hijacked an oil tanker from Oman and another one from Italy. It is said 40% of shipbound oil passes through the Gulf of Aden where Somalia is. Those people have a big source. They also earn 10's of millions of dollars in ransom. It is a good business for them but America needs to get smart and do something as our gas prices goes up. Even Arco is getting expensive. And hopefully the couples from California get rescued before they hit land

Massive security deterring would-be protesters in China

On February 20 and 27, unidentified bloggers issued a call for protest in Wangfujing, a busy shopping street in downtown Beijing. While it produced very little civilian response, the Chinese government did react, deploying many uniformed and plainclothes police, issuing warnings to journalists requiring official clearance to report in Wangfujing and Tianamen, and arresting foreigners. One reporter was "punched and kicked, by people who appeared to be plainclothes police, and then detained for several hours." This crackdown may suggest that the government fears large-scale revolt similar to that in the Arab world.

Judging by the lack of actual protesters, the media seems to be making something out of nothing. But considering the recent mass protests in Egypt (leading to Mubarak's removal) and Libya, might a nation like China legitimately have reason to fear?

Falling unemployment: bad news?

In January, the unemployment rate was 9% - down from 9.8% just two months earlier, and the lowest since 21 months ago.

That looks like good news, but there are some troubling folds to this. Unemployment is a percentage of the labor force, that is, the number of people either working or looking for work. And the labor force has been dropping for two reasons. First, the population is growing more slowly overall (in part because of reduced immigration). Second, the participation rate - the percentage of people in the labor force - is also decreasing. Some people are giving up the job search, going back to college, or (importantly) retiring early, which (while lowering the unemployment rate) is bad news for the economy.

This relates to what we discussed in class today. Unemployment is a surplus of labor. What happens when less labor is demanded than supplied? Here we're seeing one possible consequence: fewer people are willing to supply their labor anymore.

Which leads to some tough questions. Is this a serious issue? How can it be dealt with?

Pretty People do get paid more

Growing up your always told its the inside that counts. According to researcher the outside also counts. It used to be that men were always paid more the women just because they were men. This such as weight, facial symmetry, and hair color can all effect how much you are paid and if your even hired. Some of it has been know for awhile, like CEOs of fortune 500 companies are most likely to be men above 6 foot and things like beards make people think you're less trustworthy.

What really caught my attention was the part of the study that focused on how someone can be too pretty. It seems pretty ridiculous to me. Women who are considered extremely attractive can discriminated against in fields that are mainly dominated by men. Yet extremely attractive men were not discriminated against.

Things I learned form this: dress conservatively, wear at least some make up, practice good posture, and wear heels cause height counts just as much as looks.

Immunity Stops Arrest of Arizona Lawmaker after Freeway Fight

Arizona State Senator Scott Bundgaard was driving on the freeway with his girlfriend Aubry Ballard when they got into a physical dispute. Officers were called in to investigate, and they arrested Ballard and took her to jail while Bundgaard was allowed to go.
The two were on their way home from a charity "Dancing with the Stars" fundraiser and Ballard accused Bundgaard of inappropriately touching his partner. Bundgaard states that "she proceeded to throw my clothes and other things out of my car on a freeway as I took her home," which caused the physical dispute. Bundgaard says he tried to prevent his girlfriend from causing him bodily harm, which resulted in marks on her knees. He then said he pulled her out of the car but denied hitting or pushing her. However, it was only Ballard who was arresed and forced to spend 17 hous in jail.
The Arizona constitution states that legislators are immune from arrest "in all cases except treason, felony, and breach of the peace" and grants them immunity from civil process when the legislator is in session. However, Bundgaard says that he is waiving this right to immunity and wants to be charged if he did something wrong.
Although Bungaard waives his right to immunity, do you think that this type of protection should be given to lawmakers? Are they allowed certain privileges such as protection from civil law when the legislator is in session? Is this an appropriate law to ensure that the law-making process isn't hindered?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Collective bargaining rights, a state issue?

For 13 days now, protesters in Wisconsin have held demonstrations against the bill backed by Wisconsin Governer Walker that would end collective bargaining rights for teachers and other public servants.

Now, New Jersey Governer Chris Christie speaks out, saying that while he believes in fair and reasonable bargaining, he sees it as a state by state decision whether to uphold collective bargaining rights. He asserts that these rights are granted by lawmakers and can be overturned - they "didn't come down from tablets at the top of a mountain" or our Constitution for that matter, so states can take them away if they want to.

Sounds like a federalism issue. Do the states have the final say on collective bargaining rights, or are they bound by the federal government to honor them?

Air Force gives Boeing $35 billion contract

The Air Force has hired Boeing to produce 18 next-generation aeriel refueling tankers. The contract, which is expected to support thousands of jobs, is the result of a decade-long process involving a lot of political pressure from lawmakers to bring those jobs to their home districts. Boeing is planning to build the tankers in Washington and Kansas; it won the contract over its competitor, EADS, which would have based production in Alabama.

The tankers will allow military aircraft to refuel in midair, extending their range of operation.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Websites complain about Google's algorithm change

This week, Google tweaked their algorithm to favor high quality content over low quality content, particularly punishing "content farms" which put out a lot of shallow content to capture popular search terms, such as (allegedly) AOL, Demand Media, and Huffington Post.

Many webmasters complained that the change negatively affected their web traffic and their business. However, I don't see the big deal. If they want revenue, they should generate better content so that people want to come, rather than make Google feed them. Quality talks; trying to game the system through "search engine optimization" is just cheating, and I'm glad Google tries to fight it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

11-year-old arrested for stick figure drawing

[Link to video story in title.]

This is sad.

The boy was only trying to vent his feelings in a way that would be the least disruptive, in accordance with his therapist, by drawing pictures rather than disrupting class. Yet for that he was handcuffed, imprisoned, and charged for "interfering with staff and students."

Our government is supposed to protect our civil liberties, but cases such as this costing simple people thousands of dollars and emotional trauma overreacting to harmless non-crimes makes it harder to keep faith in the system.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

One Step Closer!

I think this is a huge step for gay rights. The only thing that concerns me about this sudden change in heart is if Obama has really changed his beliefs or if he has switched sides for political reasons coming up in his reelection. The article does quote him on saying that "I struggle with this" and "constantly evolving". I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, I think that when a president has truly taken a step forward on a national issue, things are going to get better.

The Deficit is Too Damn High

Jimmy McMillan, founder of the Rent is Too Damn High Party, has joined the Republican Party.

No longer a single-issue candidate, he claims to want to put pressure on Obama to focus on economic issues (like the rent). He has a new slogan: "The deficit is too damn high." And he plans to run for president.

How about that.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WAIT! No Football?!??!?!!!

The threat of a lockout season is very real right now. In about one week the original contract will expire, and no, that does not mean the NFLPA (natonal footbal league player association) and team owners (owners of the teams) have only one week to come up with a new contract. It means that training camp will have to take a stop, but for the important part.....

The league owners want to extend the regular season by an extra two games from 16 to 18 and potentially add 4 post season games (playoffs). By doing this the league will gain more revenue. Along with this addition of game the owners want more than double of their profits from the buisness. The league generates about 9 billion annually, the owners take home 1 billon from that figure. The owners want to increase their paychecks to 2.4 billion, that is more money than what I have in my wallet!

The NFLPA finds this proposal odd because the league recently put in new rules cracking down on helmet-to-helmet hits (when one players hits another player in the helmet with his own). The league claims that this rule was put in place to decrease the owner's priority, injuries. The players find it odd that the owners would add more games when more games increase the chances of sustaining injuries.

I think if the season and post season is lengthened, then the games should be shortened. What do you guys think?

Unrest in middle east means high gas prices for US

Each morning on my way to school I pass a 76 gas station and a Chevron the prices seemed to keep rising every time I passed by. The reason for it is all the unrest in the middle east. Specifically Libya. Even though such a small percent of of the US's oil actually comes from Libya, price per barrel pass $100 this week. The price per barrel of crude oil hasn't gone into triple digits since October of 2008. Being senior with a car,this issue seems a lot more pressing to me than is was when gas prices went soaring 2 years ago. Many of us pay for our own gas, so now with rising gas prices we need to be more conscious of how much we use our cars and also try and carpool as much as possible. The school parking lot has about 3-5 parking spaces reserved for people who carpool to school,so be courteous and don't take the spaces unless you actually carpool to school. Also disclaimer** I'm not abdicating that you carpool if your under 18 and haven't gotten your year yet.

Now that Obama has officially come out and said its time for Gadhafi to step down as leader, the unrest in Libya will soon die down enough that oil production returns to normal.

NASA space shuttle program coming to an end

Tomorrow, the space shuttle Discovery is making its last journey to resupply the international space station. After that, only two more shuttle flights are scheduled to launch: Endeavor in April, and Atlantis in the summer.

According to NASA chief Charles Bolden, the space shuttle program should have ended a long time ago, in favor of larger scale missions that would go to the Moon and beyond. However, even now, the U.S. doesn't have anything to replace the shuttle once the program ends, and NASA will temporarily have to rely on Russian spacecraft to maintain the space station. Bolden hopes that companies will soon come out with commercial spacecraft to fill this role, so that they can focus on the future: heavier vehicles capable of leaving orbit and perhaps landing humans on Mars.

On one hand, it's nice that NASA will now be shifting their focus to larger projects such as Mars, and it will be interesting if private businesses get involved in space travel. However, it does seem like kind of a messy transition. Are commercial spacecraft really a viable option, considering all the design and safety concerns that go into space missions? And who is going to pay for them? (Is maintaining the international space station a public good? Hm.)

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Zealand earthquake kills 75+ people


As many of you may have already heard, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit the city of Christchurch, New Zealand today. The disastrous earthquake killed at least 75 people while burying many others underneath the rubble of fallen buildings, with hundreds of people reported missing. Prime Minister John Key has requested for New Zealand's parliament to declare a state of emergency for the country. Downtown Christchurch was hit the hardest, with many people trapped under collapsed buildings.

The United States has deployed " a U.S Agency for International Development Disaster Assistance Response Team." President Obama has offered condolences on behalf of the United States to people affected by this natural disaster.

The city of Christchurch is no stranger to earthquakes, having experienced a 7.1 magnitude earthquake just five months ago which resulted in $3.8 million in damages. The recent quake has virtually erased rebuilding efforts, with more rebuilding needed in the city. The earthquake also could not have really come at a worse time with New Zealand's economy faltering with debt issues. However, economists predict that the rebuilding efforts in New Zealand will help with economic improvement through new jobs and investments. What do you guys think? Do you look for things in New Zealand to improve? Does this disaster compare with any other major natural disaster?

Federal Budget Graphic

This is from the 2010 budget; the big picture has not changed in any substantial way, although it seems that there is more bipartisan support for cutting the Defense Department than in previous years. Note that all the current budget cuts proposed by the GOP House of Representatives come from "other discretionary."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Libya Follows Egypt in Protests

The protests in Egypt kicked off a number of other nations to protest their corrupt governments; among them was Libya. Libya's president of 40 years ordered armed forces backed by helicopters and warplanes. With both helicopters and warplanes firing on the people it made their efforts to continue protesting difficult.

The conflict began to escalate six days after the protests began after 220 people were killed in the city of Benghazi. But the governments hold on power seemed to be weakening since the protesters remained in control.

Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, Colonel Qaddafi’s son, gave a speech where he blamed Islamic Radicals and Libyans in exile fr the uprising. The protesters were so angered by his speech that they converged at the capital and fought with armed troops for several hours.

Planet maybe 'unrecognizable' by 2050

By the year 2050, scientists have estimated that our population could rise to well over nine billion people. The rising population, which occurs mostly in Africa and South Asia, will deplete what resources we have. The more people there are, the more consumption there is, but we still have the same planet. Luckily, population experts support a significantly greater amount of funding for family planning programs which should, at least somewhat, control the population.

Civil War in Lybia?

After gunfire, 233 Lybian protesters were left dead. These protesters, influenced by both Egyptian and Tunisian protest, wanted more democracy. The Lybian government promised more democracy once the protest stopped. But violence has not stopped. Unlike the non-violent Egyptian protest, the anti-government protesters have set fire to cars and has even invaded a South Korean construciton site and stabbed two workers. Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of the Lybian ruler said that he would like to talk to the protesters peacefully, but if there is no peace,"forget about democracy, forget about reform ... It will be a fierce civil war."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why no contract?

Rafael Furcal in 2008 was on the verge of leaving the Los Angeles Dogers to the Atlanta Braves. At the last minute the Dogers came and swooped up the shortstop. This made the Braves president John Schuerholz steaming mad, calling the deal "despicable” and “disgusting” What made the Dogers deal so much better than the Braves? A firetruck. According to the deal, a firetruck was given to Furcal's home town in the Dominican Republic. According to Furcal his old town only had a fire department had a pickup truck to put out fires. But now with a fire truck, “I’ll sleep better knowing people will be safe. I’m the only guy who made it. It’s like a responsibility to me”, says Furcal. I think it's a good thing Furcal is doing. I hope all superstars will follow his example.


The republican governor ask the state senate to pass a bill. The bill wants to mandate that the public employees have to contribute to their own pension plan and health benefits. Their unions also have to give up their bargaining rights. The bill seemed like a sure win for the Republicans because they controlled the majority of the house. So what did the the Democrats do in protest?, they left the state to Illinois to protest. So what's the catch? The bill needs 20 senators to be present to vote, the Republican senators, who have majority, only have 19 representatives. And as of now, the Democrat Senators still are in Illinois.
I think it's unreasonable that the governor takes away the collective bargaining rights for unions, but it's also irresponsible for the Democratic senators to leave to Illinois. What do you guys thing?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nerds, Unite!

I love nerds. And I'm using that term, not to criticize, but to praise. They advance the technology of our species and pave the way for a better tomorrow. They are the ones that invent computers, tab browsing, the internet, and many other novelties that increase the productivity of the general populace and revolutionize our way of life. What would our lives be like if it weren't for nerds?

I don't even want to fathom it.

And today, on February 17th, Obama plans to meet the biggest brains in the Silicon Valley in San Francisco (a drivable distance away from where we are!). Obama, clearly, is striving to do what he encouraged America to do in the State of the Union address. America generates much of its power and uniqueness from the sheer amount of new ideas and innovations in its population, and Obama wants to capitalize on that. Obama is meeting with the heads of Google (Eric Schmidt), Apple (Steve Jobs), Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg), Yahoo, Oracle, and even Twitter to socialize about the possibility of jobs, and high-tech initiatives. In order to maximize this great country, Obama emphasizes that "targeted spending, including education initiatives aimed at producing a more sophisticated workforce, is crucial for job creation and future U.S. competitiveness with other nations."

I honestly hope that this gargantuan meeting-of-the-minds will benefit the president and his budget for the upcoming fiscal year. I'm praying that these brilliant people can muscle out a way to truly help the president at this pressing time. The support of these industrial titans would definitely help the Obama administration pass some of its spending proposals for education, energy and other programs.

I'd hate to be the Republicans if these powerful people decided to back Obama.

Click on the title for the full article.

Palin as President?

Ever since the former Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin, obtained the vice-presidential spot of 2008 presidential candidate John McCain (does anyone else think of John McClane from Die Hard whenever someone mentions John McCain), Palin has exploded onto the political scene. She was the first Republican vice-presidential nominee for the Republican party, and she seemed like a wild card. Complete with a zesty accent and a knack for providing confusing answers, Palin drew much attention and even generated much excitement among Republicans. Soon, she not only appeared on SNL, but also got her own special, comical imitation in the form of Tina Fey.

Overall, the propulsion of Sarah Palin into the political limelight was beneficial to her career. She even branched out from her conservative, Republican base and supported the Tea Party Movement. She went so far as to call the Tea Party Movement "the future of politics in America." Now, with multiple best-sellers, a reality TV show, and a contract with Fox News (something to be proud of?) under her belt, she can say with some certainty that she's reasonably successful. Whether she deserves all the things that she's been getting is debatable.

But we may be seeing a lot more of her in the coming months.

Palin has not officially stated her intention on running in the 2012 presidential campaign, but from her subtle hints, it seems like it's definitely a possibility. Dancing around the subject, Palin said, “Nobody is more qualified to multitasking and doing all the things that you need to do as president than a woman, a mom."

Oh, so many inaccuracies in that statement. Quite frankly, I don't believe that taking care of children and taking care of a nation are exactly the same thing.

Teasing us a little more, Palin questioned, “Maybe someone who’s already run for something — a vice-presidential candidate?”

Honestly, who's in favor of Sarah Palin as our next president?

The title links to the full New York Times article.

NFL and players union take step foward in labor negotiations

For those of you who follow the NFL, you know about its longstanding conflict with the players union. Conflicts include a possible 18 game season replacing the current 16 game format and dispute between how to split league revenue among other issues. The league and the players union have agreed to enlist the help of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a government organization to assist in resolving this dispute.

This is good to hear after last Thursday's meeting was canceled over a fundamental dispute of how to split the league's "$9 billion revenue pie." Owners of the NFL teams want a larger piece of the pie, while players want roughly half of total revenue. If the league, players, and owners do not come to an acceptable compromise before March 3, there is a very high possibility of a lockout of the players by owners of the NFL teams. A lockout could mean that there would be no 2011-2012 NFL season, which would surely disappoint many NFL fans. No '11-'12 season would also mean that more than 1,500 players would be out of a job, not to mention hundreds of team and league personnel.

However, things are looking up for the parties involved. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service has experience in dealing with professional leagues and their respective player unions. The FMCS has dealt with the MLS, NHL and been involved in disputes between the U.S Soccer Federation and its players.
Although there are a number of issues that these labor talks involve, I believe that the issue of a 18 - game season is one of the more important ones. The league is pushing for a longer season as a way of increasing revenues, television views, etc. The NFL players union opposes a longer season because of the toll it would take on the athletes both physically and mentally. A longer season takes its toll on all players and league/ team personnel. Recently, league officials have been cracking down on "hard hits" during NFL games and have been dishing out hefty fines to players who make tackles while "leading with their heads" or dangerous hits in general as a way to promote player safety and health. I find this hypocritical in that, the league is pushing for a longer season while advocating player safety. It does not take a genius to conclude that a longer season could be detrimental to the health of all players. What do you guys think? Would you enjoy a longer NFL season? General comments?

Unrest Again?

In the city of Manama, Bahrain at about 3:30 am, protesters were awaken by shots of "police firing pellets, rubber bullets and tear gas" and chasing them out of the Pearl Roundabout, a landmark in the capital. These protesters, inspired by the demonstrators on Tahrir Square in Egypt, were calling for more rights. Many were injured and ambulances were denied access into the roundabout, until many hours later. The Pearl roundabout is now surrounded by bardwire and partolled by the army. What was the governments' explanation for this? They stated: "A disenfranchised Shia population is very dangerous because it has the ability to destabilize Bahrain and it also is vulnerable to Iranian penetration", he also stated that the Bahrainian government had also uncovered many terrorist Shia cells, and they had no choice but to "clamp down" before things got out of hand.
Do you think the Bahrainian government had the right to be scared and use force?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jeopardy! masters no match for Watson

This photo courtesy of IBM shows Watson

As a nice follow up to Melissa's article on humans and the advancement of modern technology, many of you may have seen commercials on TV or heard about Watson- a super computer designed to compete on the game show, Jeopardy! On Monday and Tuesday's shows, Watson was pitted against the "greatest two players in the history of the venerable game show," Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Any guesses on who came out on top? Watson pretty handedly dominated Jennings and Rutter finishing with $35,734 compared to Jennings and Rutter's $4,800 and $10,400 respectively. Thoughts on this? Personally, I am not just impressed by the sheer amount of information packed into Watson, but by the type of knowledge it "possesses needed to succeed in a game such as Jeopardy! Even though Watson is just one super computer competing on a game show, what does this mean for the future of computers in the human world?

What's the Secret Recipe? Coca-Cola Says: We'll Never Tell!

One of the biggest secrets in the world of business was almost leaked. The exact recipe of Coca-Cola is a highly guarded secret that few in the world know, but the radio program This American Life came close to blowing the lid off the whole thing. To give you a sense of how heavily guarded this secret is, when the company first started out in 1887, then president Asa Candler made sure that no one wrote down the recipe ever again and staffers had to identify the ingredients by sight and smell because the labels were removed from ingredient containers. The secret formula itself is locked away in a bank vault. With this level of secrecy, it would've been hard to uncover the formula, but the radio program producers stumbled upon it while looking at an article about Coke's history in a 1979 newspaper; the photo that accompanied the article was a photo of the original hand-written copy of the original recipe.

Fortunately for the Coca-Cola company, the exposed recipe wasn't quite right, mostly because it didn't get the "Merchandise 7x flavoring" right, the most important, distinctive, and secretive part of the recipe. Apparently, the company only allows two people at any given time to know how to mix the flavoring and they aren't allowed to travel on the same plane in case it might crash. When the radio producers held a taste-test for their Coke recipe, the tasters said it just wasn't the same, although it came close for some. A spokesperson for the company has already stated that the formula is a secret the company has no intention of revealing, so it looks like it will remain a secret for good. As for the handwritten-copy in the article photo, there's some uncertainy about whether it's the real deal.

I found all this to be new, interesting, and somewhat funny information, but I don't know if this level of secrecy is needed. I feel like most people can't tell the difference between the flavor of Pepsi and the "Merchandise 7x flavoring" in Coke, or at least I have trouble doing so. I wonder if revealing the secret formula would actually damage Coke's sales or if it's just paranoia. With so many brands of the same soda flavors, they all kind of blend into each other, so that all lemon-lime sodas taste the same, and all orange sodas the same, and all root beers, and all whatever flavor soda you would call Coke. But what do you guys think? Is this level of security and secrecy needed or are they fussing over nothing? Do you even like Coke or do you prefer Pepsi?

The Singularity Is Near (So Start Worrying)

Technology and computers are advancing fast. How fast? Would you believe ridiculously fast? Exponentially fast? Fast enough to achieve artificial intelligence within our lifetime? So once these computers are able think just like humans, the next step in their evolution would be to continue advancing and developing until they are far past our own intelligence. They would even be able to continue they're own advancement by taking over the creation of more computers from humans of inferior intelligence, so their rate of development would continue to advance, too. And that's when things take a turn for the really intriguing.
Because once that happens, anything can happen. Could humans and computers merge together to become super-intelligent cyborgs? Maybe. Will our consciousnesses be scanned into them so we can virtually live our lives through them forever? Possibly. Can these computers help us treat and end aging and death? It could happen. Or will the computers see us as an obsolete, second-rate, worthless species and decide to enslave us or wage war on and completely destroy us? Yeah, that could happen, too.

Of course, you only have to worry about this if you actually think it will happen. But if it does happen, human civilization and humanity will be monumentally and irrevocably transformed from what has been and is now. This transformation is called the Singularity, and according to the people who do believe in this, it will happen. Raymond Kurzweil, a leader in study of the Singularity, says that it will happen in 2045. This isn't science fiction fodder; it's an actual hypothesis on the future and it's now become a movement. There is data and research that back this up and renowned scientists and engineers, too. But there are plenty of other people who think this is nonsensical junk science malarkey, an impossibility, because you can't create a computer with artificial intelligence, with an actual human conscious.

The Singularity reminds me of the plot and concept of a ton of futuristic/robot/science fiction movies. It actually seems kind of scary to me in real life, though, maybe because even if it is going to happen, there is no way of knowing what's going to happen to humanity and human civilization. It could be something great or it could be something awful. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not crazy about the idea of being turned into a cyborg or having my conscious trapped in a computer forever. Though we might be able to create perfect, immortal, super-intelligent humans, wouldn't eradicating all human flaws end up changing what it means to be human? We wouldn't evolve anymore and we'd stay the same forever and ever and ever. Or we could all get blown to smithreens by the computers, which scares me even more. Then there's the whole debate on whether you can recreate something as complex as the human mind, and that seems almost impossible.

I guess the good news is that we'll probably all be alive in 34 years to see if this will actually happen. We'll be in our 50's, so the whole eliminating-aging thing would come in handy.

So, any Singularitarians out there? Is the Singularity encroaching upon us or should we not even concern ourselves with it? Would benefit humanity more than harm it or is it not worth the risks? And who would win in a machine vs. man war?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"There's something you should know about me..."

With the inception of countless parodies (the latest being the exceptionally-well-done Donception) and pop culture references, I think it is safe to say that Inception is hands-down, most definitely one of the best films of the year, if not the decade. One of the main intrigues of Inception is the fact that it went on to become a commercial and critical success without the benefit of having a source material to draw from. Titanic had the actual Titanic event. The Dark Knight had the Marvel comics. Harry Potter had the wonderful books. In contrast, the idea of Inception was completely a pure, new concept. It was an idea so unique and so profound that it would need to be fleshed out and implemented adequately to be truly effective. Christopher Nolan and his team knew the challenge. They went for it. And now, the world is thanking them a hundred-times over for the fabrication of this masterpiece.

The film has grown to be so much more than just a movie. The concepts that are the centers of Cobb's heist have been incorporated in television (South Park's A Taco Within a Taco), vernacular ("You've just been incepted!") and even calculus (an integral within an integral, anybody?). The sheer caliber of innovation and imagination that has gone into the inception of the movie boggles my mind. The parasite idea of this awe-inspiring movie started way back in 2001, when Christopher Nolan (the director) created an 80-page report detailing a story about dream-stealers. With a project of this magnitude and scope, Nolan and his crew did phenomenally well in their execution. Oh, and don't even get me started on how exhilarating the musical score is.

The New York Post raves (a POST within a POST from the New York POST!) :
"In a season of brain-dead spinoffs, 'Inception' stands out as a singularly cerebral exception and will generously reward your 148 minutes of undivided attention. I strongly suspect a second visit will pay off even more."

The film went on to gross $823 million ($823,000,000) worldwide, which puts the movie on the 25th spot in the list of highest-grossing films of all time. Inception was nominated for, but didn't win, four Golden Globes awards, thus undoubtedly upsetting millions of people. However, Inception is among the top topics of the upcoming Oscars. Inception is nominated for eight Academy Awards, and spirits are running high. For the public, it's clear that Inception is the absolute favorite to win.

Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Oh, the title links to the incredible "Donception" video made by your fellow Aragonians.

Problem: the Common Cold. Solution: Zinc.

The flu and common cold season is well under way as students nationwide are experiencing the sensation of high temperatures and mucus in places where we don't want them. Yes, America is in winter right now. And just like the bipolar weather, students' health have been fluctuating greatly. But now, a new study indicates that the gifted element of Zinc has proved its worth.

Studies on the effect of zinc have been conducted since 1984, and the insights from then on have supported the potency of zinc's remedial powers. If zinc is taken within 24 hours of the first symptoms, colds can be truncated "by an average of a day or more and sharply reduce the severity of symptoms, according to the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, a respected medical clearinghouse." Additionally, The Journal of Infectious Diseases did a report in March 2008 that detailed the effectiveness of zinc lozenges. Amazingly, these things can slash the duration of colds to four days. Also, coughing can be reduced in two days.

The reason why zinc is so gosh-darn effective is up to debate, but the main consensus (in a simplified, easy-to-follow (hopefully) way) is that zinc has anti-viral properties that prevent the cold virus from growing or attaching to the nasal membranes.

I pray that everyone (one person in particular) who is sick will try out some zinc products. I'll admit that I have never heard of anything food-related when it comes to zinc, but apparently any normal drug store contains a healthy stock of edible zinc products.

So the next time your mom offers you a bowl of hot, steamy Chicken Noodle Soup, simply say, "No Mom. I want my Zinc."

George W. Bush...guilty of war crimes?

Opponents of former President George W. Bush have long been calling for his prosecution in cases of war crimes during his presidency. These advocates have hoped that the Obama administration would pursue these charges. Unfortunately for them, the Obama administration has decided to stay out of this controversy. As a result, opponents of Bush have decided to take this "case" to Switzerland as of last week, before Bush's scheduled charity fundraiser in Geneva.

Former President Bush is not going to Swiss jail any time soon, but the author of this particular Op- Ed (click the title) finds this action aimed toward Bush's prosecution on foreign soil quite ridiculous and in violation of basic rights granted by the Constitution of the United States. I have to agree with the author, David Frum who says the pursuit of jail time for Bush on Swiss soil on behalf of the American people for crimes committed while holding office is not only an attack on the former president but an attack on the "entire American legal system." Personally, I also find these actions on foreign soil to be a campaign to prosecute Bush and not a true stand for the human rights that they claim he violated. I also think it was the correct decision of the Obama administration to stay out of this whole incident considering the plethora of issues our country still needs to address. So what do you guys think? Is it a valid claim?

What's Next?

Last week, after 18 days of vicious non-violent protest, President Hosni Mubarak stepped down. In the last week, the military has dissolved the Parliament, and suspended the Constitution. The top military leaders have held talks with leaders of the protest and have promised to give back power after the elections in 6 months. What do you think is going to happen in Egypt? Do you think the military will keep their promise?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Unnecessary Quotation Marks: Don't Be a Part of "This" Epidemic

That's right "folks," this is "a" serious issue that "is" sweeping the "nation" and you need to "know" how to protect yourself from "this" terrible disease.

But seriously guys, the fact that incorrect usage of quotation marks is something that is happening all over the place just doesn't make sense. This phenomenon is when quotation marks are put around a word or phrase where they are just not needed and end up changing the entire message. Hopefully everyone already knows that quotation marks are most often used when quoting the words of someone or something, but that's not what the problem is. The real problem stems from air quotes, where the quotation marks are used for irony and sarcasm. When you put quotes around something for this reason, it is because you actually intend the opposite of what the word or phrase means. Ex: That birthday gift looks really "expensive." As you can see, misusing air quotes can lead to some very problematic, and hilarious, signs.

The closest explanation for all this is that people do it because they confuse quotation marks with underlining, though there are ones that just seem like the person threw on quotations marks until he liked the way it looked. They are emphasizing the word in the wrong way and completely changing the meaning of the sentence or just making it plain confusing. So be wary! Think about what it is your saying and if there is any reason at all for a quotation mark or "you" might be making a huge mistake. (See!)

Grammys: The Theory of Music Relativity

For those of you who watched the Grammys, it was certainly an interesting show, chockful of surprises. While I consider the Grammys to be one long, endless concert as opposed to an actual awards show, the awards in themselves were really the big story. Of course, there was no shortage memorable performances, but that's not they only thing people are taking about.

There are many out there who believe that the Grammys, and all awards for that matter, are just popularity contests were the biggest names take home the biggest prizes, but this show serioulsy questioned that assumption. Who wasn't genuinely shocked when newcomer and unknown Esperanza Spalding beat out four of the biggest new acts in music to win Best New Artist? Supergod--I mean star-- Justin Bieber was considered a shoe-in to win, and while him getting beat isn't necessarily surprising, the fact that a virtual unknown who no one knew about before, or really after, her nomination was a little bizarre, to be honest.
But by far the biggest surprise of the night was when dark horse Arcade Fire won Album of the Year for The Suburbs. In case you don't know who they are, Arcade Fire is a Canadian indie-rock band and are basically the antithesis of Justin Bieber. They aren't a "singles" band, where their main goal is to produce as many hits as possible. They are one of those groups where you have to listen to the whole album to get the point of their music. They aren't really huge mainstream musicians in the sense of entertainment shows reporting on them all the time and hearing them everyday on popular radio stations, though they still have plenty of fans because they are big in the indie, rock circuits of music lovers. All the people who love them consider them artists in the purest sense, and one of the best around. Many critics love their music too, and while they chose other nominees to win, such as Eminem, and didn't think they remotely had a chance, they thought they deserved to win. So for fans of the band, this award was a great surprise, but for others, they probably felt a little cheated.

All this culminated into me realizing a way to see the music industry. It was born, much like Lady Gaga, during the show and I have named it the theory of music relativity, and it reads as follows: How realtive an artist is to the public and media is inversely proportional to how said public and media view the quality of the artist's music. Put simply, the less famous an artist is, the better people will think their music is, and vice versa. My reasoning behind this is that there are many people out there who don't think highly of mainstream music, because all the music industry cares about is raking in the cash and not about the quality of the music. So when someone becomes a mainstream artist, they become associated with that idea, which makes people think that their music must not be very good. The opposite effect is had on little known artists; because their music hasn't been corrupted by the greedy music industry, people believe that their music must be really good. This could explain the reason why this year, in these categories, huge, popular artists lost and nowhere never as famous artists won, even if the voter himself hadn't heard of them. I don't agree with this logic, because there are plenty of obscure artists who really suck and plenty of mainstream artists who are really good. Nonetheless, there are apparently enough people who do. This could easily be applied to movies, television, and all other entertainment(think of the indie movie that people always says is supposed to be really good), in which case it would be called the theory of entertainment relativity.

I'm not saying Arcade Fire didn't really deserve to win, because I happen to like their music, but you can count me among the people who don't know Esperanza Spalding, so I can't really say how good her music is. I am saying that there are misconceptions concerning what is bad and good in entertainment.
I also think that Lady Gaga is probably the strangest person on the planet. I don't know if that is a good or a bad thing. What about you guys? What did you like or take away from the show? Did you agree with the winners? And what about the theory? Does it make sense or is it a bunch of baloney?


We all know who he is. I mean, let’s face it, this nation is having a serious case of Bieber Fever. He has spread everywhere, and admittedly, it is getting a little ridiculous (And yes, I do understand the irony that by posting about Justin Bieber, I am indeed spreading him myself). I mean, he was even featured on the Thursday, February 3rd 2011 Daily Show with Jon Stewart. And now with his new movie, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never out in theaters, I think it’s the appropriate time to address a problem that arose with Justin Bieber’s ascension to pop culture.

The young birthchild of modern hip-hop and pop music, this Justin Bieber has exploded onto the contemporary music scene. He earned his way to the top by posting Youtube videos of himself, which clearly displayed his musical talents so well that even Usher, a black musical artist superstar, became his mentor. Bieber was just a “Baby” when he started getting recognition. “One Time” he was just a small boy in Canada, and now, he’s riding the waves of popularity all over the world. It looks like he’s got more than one “Somebody to Love” now.

However, fame does come with drawbacks. Sure, Bieber came with a monstrous amount of “Beliebers” (fans), but he has accumulated an equally gargantuan amount of HATERS. And the phrase “oh, haters gonna hate” just isn’t going to cut it this time. The amount of sheer animosity that I sense on his Youtube videos is astonishing. Conflicts over Justin Bieber even filter into videos that have nothing to do with him! The music video for Justin Bieber’s joint song with Ludacris (Seriously, Ludacris is everywhere now too!) called “Baby” has gotten 462,048,025 views, 489,090 likes, and 936,810 DISLIKES. The amount of dislikes on this video is roughly DOUBLE the amount of likes on this video (the link attached to the title will bring you to the actual video).

Honestly, I don’t mind Justin Bieber. He is getting a little too overexposed for me, but not so much so that I would call him “gay” or “a faggot” or “a lesbian boy that can’t sing.” He can sing, that’s why he got picked up by a record company. Why does Justin Bieber get so much antagonism? He’s a singer, not a politician. His job is to make entertainment for the general public to enjoy. As far as I know, his criminal record is clean, and he’s a fairly nice kid. Maybe we all just need to Beliebe.

So, haters, why hate?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Short History of Egypt

With everything going on in Egypt, I felt like digging into Egypt's past to better understand its current situation. I wanted to know how all this came to be, and if the past could say anything about the future. So I've decided to give a little history lesson on the country because I thought the information I found would be for understanding its predicament. Not a comprehensive history, just enough to understand it's current situation, an abrigded version if you will. It's a storied past, and a complex one, too. Here it goes.

Our story starts in 1952, a time that mirrors Egpyt's current revolt discontent with the a hated monarchy and riots were occurring in Cairo. The only major political group at that time was the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928. A group of military officers called the Free Officers overthrew King Farouk and took over power. They represented all the political ideals of the Egyptian opposition, with connections to all political ideologies. One of the Free Officers, Gamal Abdul Nasser, took over power in 1954 and became president in 1956. He became a nationalist hero for Egyptians and Arabs after Egypt's Suez Canal War of 1956 for standing up against colonial control. He ruled as an autocrat, but was very popular among the people of Egypt and the Arab world. (Ironic to today's times, when he offered to resign after Egypt's defeat in the Six Day War in 1967, there were mass demonstrations to keep him in office.) Afterwards, he started to implement what came to be known as Arab Socialism, the details of which aren't necessary to know for our purposes. The main thing to take away is that the US perceived it as socialism, even though it wasn't really the same thing. This lead to the US and the CIA reaching out to Saudi Arabia and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood to take down Nasserism. After the Muslim Brotherhood's failed assassination attempt on Nasser in 1954, it was heavily repressed by Nasser, an oppression that lasted until Mubarak's reign. (There is an Egyptian law outlawing political groups based on religion.) The group has allegedly been invovled in terrorist acts, but the answer is not completely clear.

After Nasser's death in 1970, fellow Free Officer and vice president Anwar al-Sadat took over power. The Muslim Brotherhood was able to reemerge during his rule, but it still didn't have legal status. Sadat's rule was progressive but still experienced violence from discontent with his rule. By making peace with Israel through the Camp David Accords, he also received disapproval from other Arab countries.

Sadat's assassination by Islamist extremists in 1981 lead to vice president Hosni Mubarak taking over power, a reign many of us are now familiar with. His corrupt elections, his control of information, and his emergency law that allows him to arrest thousands with no cause make for an unsavory picture, to say the least. And that brings us to today and the current revolution. I think I understand now one of the reasons why the military is so respected in Egypt and exactly why the Muslim Brotherhood is so polarizing. Egypt went from having a hugely popular military officer autocrat to overthrowing the corrupt on it has now, and with the possibility of political groups being recognized and running freely for elections, who knows what will be the next event in Egypt's story.

This Is The App. Of The Lord

Well... I sure didn't see this one coming. It seems to me that the Catholic Church will never cease to amaze the world with something new, but what does the digitization of a religious process mean for the world? We already see robots conducting marriages in Japan, so does this take the humanity out of religion, a main aspect that defines us as humans? Does this usher a new era for a technology worshiping religion? Already we have scores of people lining up to buy the smallest changes in i-Pod technology, and it seems some people need need to take these devices with them wherever they go; almost religiously. I can see that maybe this would help for people who can't possibly take the idea of sitting in a room and confessing their sins to a priest, but otherwise I don't see the point of it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Teacher, Now a Criminal

I want everyone to look at the man in the picture on the left. For my entire sophomore year, I've fallen completely and platonically in love with that man. He was my Honors English II teacher, and he is quite possibly my favorite English teacher, period (no offense, Mr. Thurtle). He spoke like a former mogul with the husky voice of age, but the adamant strength of a monarch. I never truly appreciated Shakespeare's Julius Caesar until he brought it to life in vivid detail. He had a cane reminiscent of Dr. House, and he dressed as if he didn't know whether to be sophisticated or casual. He loved Marilyn Monroe. At the end of every class on Fridays, he'd make us stand on top of our desks. It seemed a nonsensical and idiotic thing to suggest at first, but I soon warmed up to the idea as I gazed upon everything at a new level of elevation and interpretation.

In my yearbook, he wrote:
Eric-One of my fondest memories was your presentation of The White City. I've enjoyed your sense of humor all year. Your participation in class has made the year extraordinary. Your off-the-wall comments are refreshing. My best wishes to you always,
Mr. Z

And now, he's been arrested.

I don't know how many of you have truly experienced what I felt when I witnessed this article. To find out in plain black and white, like it was just another story, about my teacher's illicit and apparently illegal behavior is traumatizing to the part of me that loved him so very much. It's like finding out Santa Claus is not all that he's cracked up to be. But this Santa Claus has been very naughty this year.

My teacher, Michael Zellner, was accused of "having an improper relationship with a student and indecency with a child." Last summer, his wife found out that Mr. Zellner was having a romantic communication with a former student. However, after the couple talked, Mr. Zellner agreed to drop the relationship. However, on December 22nd, 2010, Mr. Zellner mistakenly sent his wife a text message that was clearly meant for the girl student.

I guess, for an English teacher, he wasn't very good at proofreading who he sent his texts to.

His wife called school officials, and Mr. Zellner was arrested. Mr. Zellner admitted he had not dropped the relationship, and instead, had furthered the relationship into sexual territory.

I am aware that this type of thing happens, but it gives my suffering a new dimension when I have actually known and enjoyed the influence of one of the parties involved. Mr. Zellner was a great teacher, but I guess he just wasn't as great of a person.

Will 2012 be Obama's Year?

I'm sure all of you remember the recent State of the Union address. You know, the one with tanned-orange Boehner (who looked too uncomfortable), smoked salmon, and the passionate emphasis of math and science (along with the snubbing of social sciences and english). Obama praised teachers, respected Muslims, and called for the negotiation and cooperation of both parties to create a better government for the people. He kept it focused, and personally, I think he did an excellent job. Or, at least, a better job than Paul Ryan in his Republican Response.

In the address, Obama stated his plans for the current economic deficit. Obama encouraged innovation and industry in this country because after all, we are a country of new, fresh ideas. Seemingly driven by the hunger of being on top, He urged America to push past China and India. Apparently, green technologies are high on the president's agenda. By 2035, Obama projected that about 85% of our electricity will come from new energy sources. He affirmed that since all Americans right now are having to live within their means, so will the government spend within its means.

Well, let's see if this eloquent president can back it up. Obama has made his sales pitch for the impending 2012 fiscal year budget, and it is largely what he promised since his proposal "contains a mix of cost cuts and targeted spending aimed at achieving Obama's twin goals of reducing the deficit and boosting U.S. competitiveness." Stripping out a lot of unnecessary waste, Obama's pitch promises to be leaner, cleaner, and more affordable.

However, his plan has been seriously criticized by Republicans (isn't that a shocker). The top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Orrin Hatch calls Obama's freeze on governmental spending "a totally inadequate solution to our nation's spending problems." Republicans plan to propose a budget of their own as well. To the Republicans, Obama isn't taking the deficit problem seriously enough, which by the way, is projected to be around $1.48 trillion dollars at the end of this fiscal year. I think it'd be difficult for Obama not to take the deficit seriously enough.

Peaceful Protests Victorious, But Can Egypt Successfully Establish A New Government?

In an amazing effort, the people of Egypt have claimed a victory of their own after 18 long days. But now that Mubarak is finally out of office and the dictatorial leadership is gone, what now? In the article attached the Egyptian military says it "vowed to oversee a peaceful transition to civilian rule," but will this transition run smoothly or will a new individual seize the moment to establish another dictatorship? It is impressive enough how the people of Egypt have demonstrated in such a peaceful manner, but I believe that now they face the true test; establishing a new government. This is no easy feat, as it took the U.S. many years to establish a government that worked on its own, and even then we faced struggles that put our nation's endurance to the test. But who knows? Since our revolution was bloodier and longer, perhaps their transition will run very smoothly; so what I want to know is how y'all out there think this whole ordeal will play out.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How Do You Solve a Problem like Egypt?

It's a strange thing being part of the miltary regime in Egypt. On Feb 11, 2011, 18 days after the protests began in Egypt, the president, Hosni Mubarak, stepped down from office and handed all power over to it. The same military has had power since the military coup overthrew then king Farouk in 1952, but has stayed in the back of the government for the majority of time, allowing the leader of the country the most power. It plays a huge part in the economy, owning numerous capital. None of them are actual politicians, just soldiers and military officers. And now they've been handed a country in the midst of a revolution and have to figure out a solution that will satisfy protesters that aren't going to stay happy forever.

It's a strange thing being a protester, too. Sure, their revolution movement has been successful so far, but now the same protesters who collectively came together to overthrow their president are now splintering into different groups that all want different things out of the new potential government. They want a clear road map from the military detailing their plans and there are talks to start protests up again on Friday if they don't get one by then.
These are strange and complicated times, indeed.

How do you solve a problem like this? Things could certainly end up going in many different directions. For instance, in six months to a year, they could be having free and fair democratic elections with multiple political parties participating. I don't know if this will happen, especially considering the time frame of a year the protesters are asking for and everything from costitutional amendments to how the elections will be run has to be settled. If our trials in democracy in Iraq say anything, it's that people tend to seriously underestimate how long it takes to create one. On the other side of the spectrum, the protests might start again, which could escalate to violence and potentially war. I doubt this will happen though, for the sole reason that the military and protesters have a great relationship. Protesters deeply respect the military and trust them with the government and the military has already shown that it sides with them, so something very serious would have to happen to change either side. Perhaps it's not the military we should be concerned about. There is the potential that discord among the protesters and citizens themselves, from liberals to Islamists to Mubarak supporters, could lead to something along the lines of a war among the people. I'm don't know if this will happen, because I don't know if anybody is willing to go this far yet. While I don't doubt they are willing to fight and die for their beliefs, I'm not sure it's something that anyone in Egypt is up for. Well, not now at least. What about the rest of the Arab world? Protests are already taking place in Algeria and Yemen. Could this be the beginning of a revolution that sweeping across all Middle Eastern countries? Maybe, but it's hard to tell now how big its impact will be. It's not clear right now how things will go in Egypt and if other countries follow suit, that's a whole lot of uncertainty surrounding an entire region of the world, with varying degrees of results probably in store. Or, they could wait to see how things to turn out in Egypt, and whether they become much better or even worse, go from there and make a decision then.

Then again, maybe Egypt will savely land with something in between, not perfect, but still better than before. Even so, what ends up being there might not be something everybody, including the USA, likes. For now though, the military has temporarily disbanded parliament and suspended the constitution and things will go from there. Obama was right when he said that this was just a beginning. But the beginning of exactly what?

The pool is here! And it's green!

So in what has been incredibly obvious news here at Aragon, the finished pool made it's first appearance at school this week. Yes, it's true, the day we all thought would never come and was taking way too long to get here has finally arrived: the pool is here. Our brand-spanking new pool looks to be an improvement over our last ones, aside from the mysterious green color. (I mean, seriously, can we focus on that for just a moment? The color! It is so strange! Pool water isn't supposed to look like that, not even the old pools' water did! Whatever, now that they've dumped enough chlorine into it, it's looking a lot better. Okay, I'm done now.) The pool has certainly been attracting lots of attention from all of the students and faculty, with plenty of people stopping by to check it out, watch the construction workers put on the finishing touches, and fish out the things that have found it's way into it. Man, here for two days and it already has gross stuff floating in it.

With this new main attraction at school, I must say that I'm glad phase one of the Aragon construction has been completed. The construction for the pool sure was a pain on some days, and I can't believe that just as this one is being finished up, workers are already well into our next construction project. Seriously, where we our construction-free days in between? Who knows how long this one will take. Even so, I guess I'm glad that I was here long enough to get through until the end of the construction for the pool and see the finished product. I gotta admit, it does look pretty nice. Now if only I could say the same for that darn theater...

So, how do you guys feel about all this construction at school? Has it gotten under your skin yet?

What about the pool? Was it worth the wait and the construction or was it never necessary?

Thoughts? Feelings? Sighs of joy? Bitter sentiments?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

FREE POST! (Oh wait...)

The discussion of "free" that was raging in all of the Economics Honors classes has got me thinking.

Is there really, positively, no-doubt-about-it, a cross-my-fingers-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye promise that nothing in this vast, grand world of ours has the absolutely, definitely imponderable value of being FREE?

Free, in my opinion, is the virtue of having no cost: monetary or opportunity. Essentially, there was nothing spent for a "free" thing to exist and continue existing. Of course, everyone quickly figured out that anything tangible cannot possibly be free since theoretically, it took TIME to make everything (grass, books, babies, air, etc.). Therefore, as the class swiftly shifted to intangible things (such as gravity), the line separating free and not free was blurred.

Is time free?

Is space free?

Can anyone think of something that is legitimately free?

As a side note, I would like to reiterate what Mr. Silton said in my class period about the cost of love (a popular answer to the popular question: Is there anything really free out there?). Love is perhaps one of the most costly things I've ever known. Love eats away time like nothing I've ever witnessed before in my life (though time well spent). Even parental love isn't free since parents feel obligated to do things (and thus spend time) for the children that they love. But, I like it that way. If love didn't cost anything, it wouldn't be as precious or as special when someone has it.

A Stripped Egypt

As many of you know, Egypt has recently erupted with turmoil inspired by the awing Tunisian revolution. Citizens took to the streets thirsty for justice and chanting for the current governing figure, Mr. Hosni Mubarak, to step down from his presidential platform. The citizens of Egypt have had it. They want no more of the poverty, unemployment, and corruption that has percolated throughout the nation.

17 days into the struggle (it started on January 25th), the world hungers for progress. The latest news has just come out: Mubarak refuses to leave, but he hands most of his governing powers to his vice-president, Omar Suleiman. However, Mubarak still maintains the power to dissolve the cabinet, or the parliament. And, He retains the power to request amendments to the constitution.

Although Mubarak is hated far and wide for his oppression and his simple, but adamant defiance, he has made some respectable decisions. For one, he acknowledged the validity of the protesters' complaints and vowed that the next elections will be free, fair, and Mubarak-free. Also, he has proposed multiple amendments to the constitution that will loosen up presidential eligibility, restore judicial checks on elections, and impose term limits on all future presidents (funny how he proposes term limits AFTER his three-decade long rule).

Mohamed ElBaradei,
A prominent figure of the ongoing protest and a Nobel Peace laureate, tweeted (oh, the advantages of social networking) the following: "Egypt will explode." Mr. ElBaradei has been quoted in calling out the Egyptian army to interfere.

The Supreme Council of the Egyptian military decided to meet with Defense Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi at the helm.
They are presumably currently working on a way to stabilize the situation. Indeed, the council has proclaimed a "permanent session," which is only called for in wartime. They are outlining "what measures and arrangements could be made to safeguard the nation, its achievements and the ambitions of its great people."

Personally, I do fear corruption in the Supreme Council of the military. The quote from the Council is a tad bit reassuring, but it's the same type of nationalistic shtick that Mubarak was gushing out during his televised appearances. Then again, the three-decade tyrannical rule of Mubarak is hard to top. I hope that the Supreme Council knows that time is a vital thing to take into account in this situation, and that they need to figure a solution quickly and efficiently.

Click on the title for the full, Associated Press article.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Matchmakers: Who's on your list?

Matchmakers have come out at Aragon just in time for Valentine's Day and everyone seems to be having fun with them. In case you don't already know, AVID had everyone at school fill out a questionnaire about our personalities and what we like in other people and our answers were matched together with other students. Students are buying the results during lunch for $2.00 with the profits going to AVID. Now that the results are in, people are certainly entertaining themselves with these things, as far as I can tell.

So, is anyone willing to share the scoop on their matchmaker list? Any shocking surprises? Unexpected omissions? Disappointments about who was and wasn't on your list? No need to be specific by using names, unless you want to try to start a little something-something in the comments section. And what about these matchmakers, anyway? Is there any truth or legitimacy to them at all, or are they just a fun, silly thing that doesn't mean anything in the end? Are they really worth the $2.00, or are you better off saving that money and spending it on some frozen yogurt?

Which Would You Prefer- A Human Or A Robot?

Would any of you be okay with having a robot nearby or having a robot care to you even? In Japan an enormous amount of funding goes into robot development and research, but surprisingly in the article above, people in Japan still prefer that "human touch." There are many benefits to having a robot aid at home and in hospital environments such as a decreased likelihood of spreading diseases or bacteria from other people doctors or nurses would otherwise come into contact with. While robots are still very limited in their capabilities they have a lot of potential to do good in the world, especially for the thousands of Americans that fall and break a leg every year. However if the same thing happened to me, I would much rather prefer a human being who will react with emotion and care instead of a robot characterizing my injury as just another task, but what do you guys think of all this?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Will Reliance on Technology Be Our Downfall?

Will we one day wake up in a tube like Neo in The Matrix to find that we are being kept alive by machines?Cars, phones, heaters, they're all great things we use every day, but at what point does our casual use turn into a dependence? When man was still in its technological infancy, the normal human being could fend for himself in whatever given environment he lived in. But as simple machines were created to make certain jobs easier, the enjoyable luxury of having them turned into a dependency over time. For example, millions of people rely the Internet to keep in touch, conduct research, and even buy stock. If the Internet alone went down just for a day, I have no doubt we'd be caught in the midst of chaos as people rush to find out why they can't check their face book status or why they can't access important information. Our farming is highly mechanized, our economy relies on high performance jet engine planes to transport individuals across the world, and the water of the world that is no longer drinkable is purified by enormous purification plants.

At home we constantly rely on air conditioners to heat or cool our homes, and the time where humans were naturally woken up by the sun or the sound of a rooster has been shoved aside for an age of rather annoying alarm clocks. And how often do you use a car to get around? I know for a fact that I barely get anywhere I need to be without a car, and I myself would be found quite stranded if I had no access to one. So is the age we live in an indication of our ever increasing dependence on machines to make life livable? Or can we achieve a balance between man and machine?

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Violation of the First Amendment, Miranda Rights, or Both?

Hello everyone. I'd like you to take a look at this video link (the title) of a man getting arrested while speaking out at a public forum. Although a bit loud, he showed no signs of aggression or intent to harm anyone, yet police arrested him on the spot. According to the MSBA, the definition of an arrest is "the taking, seizing or detaining of an individual by touching or putting hands on a person or taking action that indicates an intention to take the individual into custody and subjects him or her to the control and will of the person making the arrest." The man constantly asked what he was being arrested for and was denied of the information which should've been given as per his Miranda Rights. To me this was an illegal arrest, and he had an absolute freedom of speech that was violated, but what do you guys think?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mother-to-be found in Newport flat fire was stabbed

Nikitta Grender's body was found in her flat in Newport today.  Grender (19 years old) was eight months pregnant with her first child, a daughter.  The baby's due date was a mere two weeks away.  Her body was recovered "using breathing apparatus and thermal imaging cameras."  Examinations show that Grender was stabbed.  The knife that was used to kill her, however, was not found at the scene.  Police are urging people who have seen Grender in the hours before the fire to come forward with possible information as to where the knife is or any other facts that led to the fire/murder.

This is disheartening to hear.  The fact that this teenager lost her life is already sad, but knowing that she was eight months pregnant makes this even worse.  Especially for Grender's family, who at this time should be joyfully waiting for the arrival of a new member.  Instead, they are mourning the early death of Nikitta.