By Derek Gartee
Last updated: 12/03/13 12:19pm
Imagine a world where violence is a rarity. Imagine a world where a police officer killing a criminal would be the top story for the local news. A world where police officers do not normally carry guns. Sounds crazy right? Well, it’s not for the people of Iceland.
On Monday, the Icelandic police shot and killed a man during a raid of his house in Reykjavik, the capital. According to local news sources, it is believed this was the first time a police officer shot and killed a man in the country. Yes, I said the first time. In the country. Ever.
In the 69 years that Iceland has been a country, a cop had never shot and killed anyone until Monday. The country, home to more than 315,000 people is known for it’s lack of violence, especially when it comes to guns.
According to GunPolicy.org, in 2009, Iceland saw four gun-related deaths, with an average of 1.25 gun deaths per 100,000 people. Compare that to the U.S., which had 31,347 gun deaths in 2009, an average of 10.22 deaths per 100,000 people.
It blows my mind that a country has nearly no gun violence. I grew up right by Flint, Mich. Often referred to as the most violent city per capita in the U.S. Growing up, shootings and murders flashed daily across the television screen.
We need to fix this. Of course, it will be very hard to get to where Iceland is. We are a much bigger country. We have much more to deal with, but making steps toward a safer country is necessary.
It might be through gun control, but it shouldn’t be necessary seeing that according to GunPolicy.org, about 30 percent of people in Iceland own guns. It might be through welfare systems that help the struggling, who are more prone to commit crimes out of necessity.
I believe it will be through a change in the way we think. Americans always have been a violent people. We are desensitized by violence in the media, and have had history of praising it (in wars and military conflicts). If we looked at violence like the people of Iceland do, maybe we could make a change for the better.
By Summer Ballentine
Last updated: 12/03/13 12:17pm
Don’t be fooled into thinking life in the U.S. is the only way. Ifitweremyhome.com shows comparisons between countries, and a quick search shows stark differences between countries I considered America’s sisters.
For example, if I lived in the United Kingdom, I’d consume about 55 percent less oil, have 14 percent more of a chance to get employed, spend almost 60 percent less on health care but also make about a quarter less money. There’s about a third less of a class divide in Canada, and I’d have about 4 percent more free time if I lived in our northern neighbor.
Most of the countries I searched use less electricity and oil than Americans do, although we often earn much higher wages.
I feel lucky to live in a country with such a low infant mortality rate and high life expectancy. Russians on average die 12 years younger, and there’s a 68 percent higher chance of dying in infancy.
Quality of life is drastically different, even on the same continent. So check out the site next time you’re procrastinating for finals week and educate yo’self
By Derek Gartee
Last updated: 11/21/13 10:48am
Yesterday I was scrolling through my online newsfeed when I came across the post: “Samsung pays Google $1.5 Billion in 5 cent coins.” I immediately thought to myself, “This has to be fake.” And lo and behold, after a mere 20 seconds of Googling, I found more than enough research to expose this story as the phony it is.
However, it got me thinking about how often I see this. Every day on Facebook, you see friends and family posting ridiculous faux-stories, exclaiming about how they can’t believe it is real. How can people fall for this stuff? I’ve even seen articles from the famous satirical newspaper, The Onion News, posted as truth on social media sites.
In today’s modern world, we have to be hypercritical.
Anything can be posted as truth on the Internet, and we can’t just trust something simply because it includes fancy writing or even a picture. Just the other day, a news station in Indianapolis posted a doctored image on television, believing it was a real picture taken during the tornadoes that swept the Midwest. If they would have looked a little closer at the image, they might have caught the UFO added to the background.
If there is one piece of advice I can give, it’s this: always do your own research. Never take anyone’s word as the whole truth. It is a mantra that has led reporters for generations. However, with the Internet, news can be told by everyone. Now, it’s everyone’s job to make sure the news they are reading is the real deal.
By Derek Gartee
Last updated: 11/19/13 8:54am
Storms ripped through Michigan and most of the Midwest on Sunday. Trees were uprooted, many people left without power and even a building collapsed. Four tornadoes touched down in Genesee County, near my hometown in Davison, Mich.
Natural disasters can come and go in hours, destroying everything in their path. Tornadoes can destroy homes, businesses and take lives. However, these natural disasters teach us a sobering reality about the world we live in: Some things happen that we have no control over.
It doesn’t have to be a natural disaster. Freak accidents and events can flip someone’s world upside-down. It is a part of our lives.
I’ve had my run-ins with this unlikely fate. My grandmother, who I treated like another parent, died unexpectedly a few years ago. The doctors never determined the cause of death.
Things like this truly test a person. After my grandmother’s death, my whole family was devastated. We lost the glue that held us all together. These unexpected tragedies take people by surprise, sweep them off their feet and watch them try to recover.
It’s a hard fact to understand. Since childhood, we are told if we do good, good things will happen. If we work hard, success will come.
When these events come along, they break that pattern. Those Genesee County citizens had to work hard to get their homes; they did the right things. However, in a flash the things they worked so hard for were destroyed by a giant funnel of pressure and wind they could not stop or prepare for.
Part of life is learning how to move past these tragedies. It is learning to understand you could do nothing to change the outcome. It will be tough to pick up the pieces and move on, but these moments will make you a stronger person. I know it has made me one.
Tragedies, though unimaginably painful, help us put our lives into perspective. The rare bad moments show us how much we have to be thankful for. In light of recent events and the coming holiday, we all should look at the good we have in our lives and help those who are currently struggling.
By Matt Sheehan
Last updated: 11/15/13 5:05pm
MSU, I love you, but what are you doing? You see the empty bleachers at football games. You see the thin crowds in the Izzone during non-conference match-ups. So why, just why, are you making it harder for students to get through the gates and into the empty seats?
In the days of old (see: earlier this season), fans from far and near were able to buy student tickets for games they were thrilled to attend. If you were a girl using an ID with a picture of a guy with a fro on it, no worries — you paid your hard money and deserved to go. Heck, it’s not hurting anyone except the opposing team with one more fan in the seats.
But MSU wants to go backwards on this. With the new student ticket exchange policy, you must transfer your ticket to someone else’s ID; in other words, you can only use an ID with your smiling face on it. That’s right, you need photo-documentation to go to a sporting event like you are entering the White House.
Every year the broken record player is played by alumni, students and media voicing their repetitive thoughts on student turnout. “Look at all those empty seats in the upper deck” they say during football season. “Why can’t enough people fill up the lower bowl without pulling kids from the upper deck?” they ask during basketball season.
If I were you, I would be prepared to hear these questions again.
Is it hard to transfer tickets to another ID? No, not really, but it’s a longer process. You have to gather the other person’s information, punch it into the computer, and do an email confirmation to seal the deal. Not bad, but not as easy as meeting the person, awkwardly exchanging small talk and trading money for IDs.
Here are the real victims though: visitors. You want to take your childhood friend to the game? Does your high school-age brother want to come up to see what the rowdy Izzone is like? Have fun finding someone that looks like them and then maybe, just maybe, getting by the person scanning the card.
The student sections can give you a fantastic, one-of-a-kind experience, but by keeping visitors out of the stadium some other people might never be able to say that.
By Summer Ballentine
Last updated: 11/14/13 10:14am
Thomas Bean can never un-see the horror of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
He was one of the first police officers on the scene where 20 children and six adults were shot to death in December 2012, and the memory still haunts him, according to a CNN report.
Unfortunately, Bean might lose his job because he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Newtown, Conn., city officials only can afford two years of financial support; Connecticut only covers long-term disability if it’s partnered with a physical injury.
It’s disgraceful that current laws still give physical injuries more weight than mental illness, and it’s especially disgraceful considering Bean was traumatized serving the public. By only limiting financial support for those with mental illness compared to physical disabilities, the state of Connecticut is sending a message that PTSD simply is not as harmful as losing a limb. For Bean and others who face debilitating flashbacks when they go to the supermarket, that’s insulting.
Let’s hope this spurs a change for the better in public policy.
By Derek Gartee
Last updated: 11/12/13 8:02pm
State representatives heard testimony on Tuesday about a bill proposed in March to ban employers from asking about felony convictions on job applications, MLive reported. These “Ban-the-Box” policies have started to increase in popularity in recent years, and similar policies are in effect in Detroit, Kalamazoo, Muskegon County and Saginaw County.
This bill is addressing the wrong side of the problem. It’s the employees that need to change, not the applications.
I’ve had to submit applications for jobs before, and on my application, I was legally required to write all prior employers I have had.
I was not able to pick and choose which employers I wrote down. If I had a bad experience with one or I was fired, I still had to write it down. It is a part of letting an employer know about the person they might hire.
It is the same with legal issues. If someone is convicted with a felony, the employer should have this information. It shows an applicant’s history.
As a student, I would hope that when my professors were hired, their employer was aware of their history, be it good or bad. I would want them to be able to make a decision based on all of the information. If something like a felony was left out of the equation, that could be a potential safety risk to myself and the university.
Not telling employers about criminal history is leaving out a piece of who that person is. No one should be able to hide something from their employers that could have an effect on how they perform.
I do, however, believe there is a problem with our employment process. Felons are discriminated against, often unfairly. We should work to change employers’ perceptions of felons, not the application itself.
Many felons in the U.S. are not the vicious, bloodthirsty killers we make them out to be. Tax evasion, mail tampering and even downloading songs illegally are felonies. Someone who pirated Justin Bieber’s new album is by no means a threat to the workplace.
Even people who commit more serious or violent crimes can change. That’s the whole point of the penal system. Many people are forced into crime because of location or poverty. If someone is able to get out of that lifestyle and change, they should have access to the same opportunities as anyone else.
Employers need to look at felonies differently. People make mistakes. It’s a part of life.
We have to be able to look past the mistakes people have made and judge them based on who they are now. Many felons have made changes and are completely fit to work. In fact, felons often receive training in prison to be experienced in various trades.
We can’t rule these people out just because of mistakes in the past, but employers still have the right to know about that past. Employers should sit down and talk with them about their criminal history to see if they’ve made a change in their life before making a decision.
By Casey Holland
Last updated: 11/07/13 11:50am
My name is Casey, and I’m addicted to video games.
OK, that was slightly overdramatic, but I do love gaming. I’d spend hours in front of a TV with my friends while we were growing up, rapidly pressing buttons as our eyes darted across the screen. We weren’t picky when it came to what we played; One day we could be trying to win a Halo campaign, while the next could be spent endlessly circling the tracks of Mario Kart. It was amusingly competitive and all-around fun which, to me, is time well-spent at the end of the day.
Of course, there are others who would argue differently.
I can’t recall how many times I’ve heard someone talk about how playing video games is a waste of time for lazy couch potatoes. While sitting in front of a television or a computer does not exactly promote physical activity (unless you consider Wii tennis to be exercise), it has been discovered to cause growth in one part of a person’s body.
No, I’m not talking about thumb muscles.
A study published last week proves just how beneficial video games can be. The study was done by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, who gave it the title “Playing Super Mario induces structural brain plasticity: gray matter changes resulting from training with a commercial video game.”
Basically, playing video games actually causes gray brain matter to grow.
The study shows those who played at least 30 minutes of Mario 64 per day during the course of two months grew new gray matter in areas of the brain linked to spatial navigation, strategic planning, working memory and motor performance. There was no growth witnessed in the control group, who didn’t play the game and actually showed a slight decrease in gray brain matter.
Even more exciting than proving the skeptics wrong is the optimistic future of this study. According to the study, future research could lead to showing how playing video games can be used as a treatment for diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.
There’s no reason to feel guilty for taking a little time out of the day to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser’s clutches. Clearly, it isn’t time thrown — it’s time spent stimulating the brain, and it could prove to be valuable to a person’s health in the future. Plus, nothing says “bonding” like getting into a shouting match over who threw the red shell.
By Casey Holland
Last updated: 11/05/13 6:50pm
Facebook is well on its way to a transformation from a form of social media to a social search engine, complete with new features that screamingly imply, “Big Brother is watching.”
In an article from The Huffington Post, founder Mark Zuckerberg’s most recent address to Facebook investors highlighted the site’s new business plan of “understanding the world.” Facebook’s “artificial intelligence” already has made 1.2 trillion status updates and comments searchable, but the process is rather basic. If a person were searching for information on a specific television show, for example, they would not be able to find comments discussing said show unless it were explicitly named in the person’s response.
This is where natural language, a sub-field of artificial intelligence that is used in technologies similar to Siri, comes into play. Natural language is used to decode human language, and would potentially allow Facebook to connect the dots of our status updates and comments and use keywords to unlock our interests. It wouldn’t only be reading our updates — it would analyze them.
In other words, bring on the irritating advertisements.
Once Facebook knows a person’s specific interests, it will send advertisements their way that correspond with their statuses and comments. Not only that, but friends who type in a search of “friends who like rap music” could be referred to your profile if you’ve typed multiple statuses about Big Sean’s concerts or album releases.
The thought of a website having the ability to get to know me makes me shudder, and I certainly don’t want to be bombarded with any more advertisements than I am now. I don’t think that anyone could be comfortable with a computer knowing even their most trivial interests.
Since I am a member of Facebook, though, I’m guilty of setting myself up for it.
Nothing on the Internet can ever be considered private. We’ve all listened to lectures reminding us that the Internet is permanent, that a future employer could find those humiliating photos by doing a quick search of your name. We’ve been warned, but we subject ourselves to it either way. People can complain about Facebook digging into their personal lives until they’re blue in the face, but refuse to regard that their personal lives aren’t only theirs to know about as soon as they log in.
Are Facebook’s new advances too close for comfort? Yes. Are we setting ourselves up to be observed under a microscope by being a member of the site in the first place? Definitely.
By Casey Holland
Last updated: 10/31/13 9:57am
The movie adaptation of New York Times best-selling author Orson Scott Card’s science fiction novel “Ender’s Game” is set to hit theaters Friday. Fans of the novel have been anticipating this movie since the announcement of its production, but Card’s increasingly tarnished reputation could hinder the movie’s success.
Card is well known for his opposition to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, a controversial view that has hurt some of his previous projects. A story he contributed to DC Comics’ “The Adventures of Superman” was put on hold this past year when the website AllOut.org submitted an online petition of more than 11,000 signatures to remove Card from the project.
While I personally do not agree with Card’s views on same-sex relationships, I also do not believe that they should have an impact the success of the “Ender’s Game” movie.
The novel itself does not address homosexuality in any way. “Ender’s Game” tells the story of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin as he is trained by the International Fleet in preparation for an invasion of the alien race, the Buggers. The author’s views on same-sex relationships do not make an appearance throughout the course of the novel, and therefore will play no part in the plot of the movie.
Refusing to see the movie simply because you do not support Card’s viewpoint won’t change his opinion. Also, it doesn’t make you a hypocrite to watch the movie if you don’t agree with Card’s stance. These are two monumentally different issues that should not realistically cross paths with each other.
The author has made multiple crude, racist, sexist and homophobic comments, but has kept his opinions out of his story. Now, if “Ender’s Game” was promoting intolerance, I would strongly oppose seeing the movie. It doesn’t touch on the issue, though, and boycotting it simply because of the author’s personal opinions isn’t fair to the producers, directors, actors and everyone else who devoted their time into creating a movie that they’re passionate about.
If the plot sounds dull or you don’t like the actors, then don’t pay to see the movie. If you read and loved the novel, or are intrigued by the movie’s trailers, then don’t let the author’s ignorant viewpoint keep you from seeing a movie that you feel you will genuinely enjoy.