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Tuesday, July 28, 2015 | Last updated: 11:44am

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Opinion Blog

2015 Jeep Cherokee Latitude might not make the best first impression, but offers variety of features

By Anthony Herta          Last updated: 12/09/14 4:21pm         

The 2015 Jeep Cherokee #jeep #jeepcherokee #statenews

A photo posted by YouthAutos (Anthony Herta) (@youthautos) on

Bulldogs. They sometimes look mean and can bark with a low and frightening growl — not making the best first impression. But, bulldogs can sometimes be the best companions.

Like a bulldog, the new 2015 Jeep Cherokee Latitude may not make the best first impression. The “Granite” grey test car I picked up from Bill Snethkamp Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram didn’t look like the traditional Jeep to say the least.

On the top of the hood sits two thin LED daytime running lights that appear to the be the main headlights. The real headlights are actually in the middle of the front bumper.

At first I thought the Cherokee looked polarizing in the front — almost ugly. But the more I looked at it, I began to really like the look. It looks aggressive, mean and ready to tackle all types of terrain. It makes the new Ford Escape look like the weak pretty boy of the midsize SUV market.

Once inside, the Cherokee proves its masculinity.

Much like its bigger brother, in the Grand Cherokee, everything is big and easy to use. The steering wheel has a very thick hefty rim. Buttons on the dashboard are large and easy to use and understand. The brawny shifter also makes you feel like you’re driving a much bigger SUV.

Adding to the truck-like feel was the raised driving position. Although my test car had “Morocco Black” cloth seats, I was surprised how comfortable they were.

Because my test car had the “Cold Weather Group” package ($795), the seats and steering wheel were heated. Nothing feels better than a heated steering wheel, especially during the harsh Michigan winters.

In the center of the dash, there’s an absolutely massive 8.4-inch touchscreen that houses Jeep’s Uconnect system ($795).

Unlike the dense and slightly complicated Ford MyFord Touch system, Uconnect does not overwhelm the driver with its capabilities. To increase usability, on the bottom of the screen there are icons designated to ‘Radio,’ ‘Media,’ ‘Controls,’ ‘Climate,’ ‘Phone’ and ‘Apps.’

Touch points on the screen are quick to respond and relatively big, which limits the risk of hitting the wrong button on accident. Thankfully, Jeep kept actual buttons and knobs below the screen for climate and radio settings for easy use while driving.

Pairing my phone proved to be easy and quick. With my iPhone connected to the Uconnect, I could then make calls and stream my music through Bluetooth without having to whip out my Apple lightening cable to plug into one of the two available USB ports.

But what excited me the most about the Cherokee’s interior was the attention to detail.

Although the brown accent stitching on the doors, seats, armrests and the dashboard is a nice touch, spending more time in the interior you’ll find little gold coins. On the bottom of the steering wheel, “SINCE 1941” is embedded on the rim to hark back to Jeep’s introduction. But the best detail of the whole car is at the bottom of the windshield where there is a drawing of a little original Bantam Jeep driving up a small hill.

Moving this bad boy was a 3.2 Liter V6 ($1,695) with 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque. The power was butter smooth. The nine-speed transmission was quick to downshift upon increased throttle inputs and got this SUV hauling. The sound coming out of the dual-chrome exhausts encourages you to drive even faster.

Putting that power down to the pavement felt secure with Jeep’s four-wheel drive system. Helping that traction was Jeep’s “Selec-Terrain System.” With a switch of a knob, you can put the Cherokee into “Snow,” “Sport,” or “Sand/Mud” mode. This will adjust the transmission, 4x4 system and traction control accordingly for those different conditions.

But what wasn’t smooth was Jeep’s “Stop/Start” technology. If you are stopped at a stoplight, the engine will turn off to help achieve 20-mpg city and 28-mpg highway. The engine will start again once you lift your foot off the brake.

Although I’m all for saving fuel, sometimes this system can be clunky. On a couple occasions where I stopped at a stop sign, the engine would shut off and after lifting my foot off the brake I would have to wait an extra second or two for the engine to start again — creating some awkward situations at four way stops. Thankfully this system can be defeated with a press of a button.

The Cherokee’s steering had a nice heft to it and felt substantial.

As a passenger, the Cherokee’s back seat is fairly comfortable with lots of headroom and an iPhone 5’s worth of leg room behind the average sized driver. 

Behind the seat was a pretty generous sized trunk that measured three and half North Face backpacks wide, two and half deep and one and half tall.

All things considered, the Jeep impresses with its usability, sense of quality, power (with the V6) and different tech features. Give this $30,975 bulldog a chance — you might find yourself a great companion for years to come. 

2015 Mazda 3 has both looks and affordability

By Anthony Herta          Last updated: 11/09/14 1:38pm         

In our generation, there are many beautiful women. Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Kate Upton ­– the list goes on. But, these women aren’t exactly attainable.

Luckily, the new 2015 Mazda 3 i Grand Touring 5-Door I picked up at Crippen Auto Mall has the celebrity looks with an affordable price tag.

My test car had a beautiful “Soul Red Metallic” dress on ($300) that really accentuated its curves. At the front, the Mazda has a big prominent grill that leads into the swooping headlights. With the hatchback version, it comes with a big ol’ Kim Kardashian booty in the back with thin sporty tail lamps.

Opening the door with the standard (on the i Grand Touring trim) “Advanced Keyless Entry System,” the key-fob never left my pocket.

Inside, I immediately felt like I was in a bigger car than its exterior appearance suggested. With my test car’s standard sunroof and an iPhone 5’s worth of headroom, the cabin had a very airy feel.

Not only was I surprised about the size of the cabin, but also how well it was appointed. Black leatherette surfaces with red accent stitching on the seats, steering wheel, shift knob and center armrest, I felt like I was in a car well above my test car’s $25,390 price tag. Almost everything oozed quality. Every button had a nice weight to it. Every knob had a nice click and heft. It made me forget the reality of my poor college student status.

Elevating the high-class feel was the crisp graphics on the 7-inch touch-screen display. Although the screen is at the perfect height to quickly glance at while driving, using it as a touch screen requires a lean forward which can be somewhat difficult to pull off while driving.

To combat this, there is a “Commander Control” knob in the center console behind the gear selector to control all the entertainment, communication and navigation functions on the screen.

Connecting my phone was fairly easy. Making calls to my momma via the voice commands was seamless. The Mazda’s Bluetooth also enabled me to stream my music without having to dig out my Apple Lightening cable. My music sounded especially great out of the nine Bose speakers in the cabin – perfect for blasting loud enough to drown out my horrible singing voice. With my phone connected, I also had access to my Facebook and Twitter feeds – because missing out on a notification could be tragic.

Opening the center armrest revealed a nice storage space along with two USB ports and an AUX jack.

Pressing the engine start button ignited a decent sound from the SKYACTIV 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine out of its dual chrome exhausts.

Grabbing onto the steering wheel inspired confidence right off the bat. Being perfectly shaped for nine and three driving, it makes its sporty intentions clear.

Although on paper the engine appears to be slow with 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, the Mazda gets going with ease and didn’t really leave me wanting more power. Achieving 30-mpg city and 40-mpg highway, my poor college student wallet was also happy.

Steering the car was light but very precise – making it very fun to drive around the curvy country roads off campus. With the handling encouraging you to take on turns faster and faster, my speed started to climb above the speed limit without me noticing. At a glance, the speedometer is hard to read and requires too many seconds of focus to gauge your speed.

As a compromise to the great handling, the ride felt similar to the suspension on my mountain bike; not overly firm but not exactly comfortable ­– although I’d sacrifice the ride for handling any day.

My test car came standard with the “Blind Spot Monitoring,” a little light in either of the side mirrors that illuminates if a car is in your blind spot. If you put your turn signal on and someone is in your blind spot, an audible alarm will sound, which saved my butt from hitting the car next to me on several occasions.

Sitting in the backseat isn’t too bad. Although it’s no limousine in the back, three average sized college students could squeeze in the back with little discomfort.

Behind the backseat is a nicely sized trunk that measured to be two North Face backpacks deep, four and half wide and one and half tall. All things considered, the 2015 Mazda 3 impressed me with all the tech features and sporty characteristics crammed into its relatively small body. It may not be Katy Perry, but as far as cars in this price range go, the 2015 Mazda 3 is the closest thing to her. 

#mazda3 #statenews

A photo posted by YouthAutos (Anthony Herta) (@youthautos) on

Wiz Khalifa concert cancelation a disappointment

By Rich Vadasy          Last updated: 08/27/14 2:22pm         

The cancelation of the Wiz Khalifa concert came as shock and disappointment to myself and others who were planning on attending the event. 

MSU spokesperson Jason Cody has since confirmed the cancelation stemmed from a shooting at one of Khalifa's concerts last week. 

Khalifa was performing in Silicon Valley when a 38-year-old male was shot and killed backstage. For this to be the reason of the cancelation, I find that absurd. You can’t attribute violence to music, and that’s clearly what the MSU Residence Halls Association is doing here. Did Wiz Khalifa’s performance pull the trigger of that gun? No. It was a senseless act of a horrible person. For all the RHA knows, Keith Urban could have been performing there and the shooting still would have occurred. 

This is just another example of stereotyping rap music to a “thug” lifestyle. Maybe his concert did attract the wrong crowd, but it’s not like this is something that happens all the time. There have been no other instances like this at his other concerts. 

I guess RHA just has to trust the students of MSU to not go to the a concert with the intent of killing someone. I know a lot of people were looking forward to the concert at the Breslin Center, including myself. At least the RHA is giving full refunds to everybody who bought tickets already. But this was still is a ludicrous overreaction to a crime that had nothing to do with the actual concert itself.

Social media causes strife, even between cities

By Casey Holland          Last updated: 08/03/14 5:46pm         

The world of social media opens up many doors for drama and petty feuds, which is what happened between two news organizations following David Price's trade from the Tampa Bay Rays to the Detroit Tigers. 

Following the trade, Fox 13 in Tampa Bay tweeted a meme comparing a run-down area of Detroit to a beach setting in Florida that read "Good luck, David!" The message with the tweet said "Take some comfort, Rays fans," which was a thinly-veiled insult towards the Detroit area. 

Of course, Fox 2 News retaliated, creating a meme that showed a practically empty Tampa Bay stadium above a Comerica Park filled to capacity. 

Fox13 tweeted a pretty lame meme apology after the retaliation. 

While the exchange was all in good fun, and Fox 2 said in a story that there were no hard feelings towards Fox 13, this is still an example of how social media can prove to be a prime environment for pointless attacks on other people.

When you're behind a computer screen, it's much easier to type up hurtful or snarky comments. Most things said with the help of a keyboard would never be said out loud and in person  — that's why hate comments are so easily spread over anonymous messaging systems. Confidence levels receive a major boost when you're online, and suddenly, no words are off-limits no matter who they could hurt.

Hateful comments can be posted on stories on any news site. Anonymous messages can be sent over social media websites. People online can be attached anywhere, over any medium. 

The Detroit and Tampa Bay exchange was for fun, but still acts as an example of how it only takes the click of a button to send mean-spirited comments and tweets. The Fox 13 tweet was clearly a jibe at the Detroit area, and even if Fox 2 didn't take offense, others could have. 

The Detroit and Tampa Bay friendly feud is only another example of how easy social media makes it to attack each other. With comments left uncensored and nothing to hold them back, the online world can become a hostile environment even for people trying to post their own opinions. 

You don't need to keep up with the Kardashians

By Casey Holland          Last updated: 07/16/14 2:37pm         

An England resident plunged into what she called “major credit card debt,” spending a ridiculous $30,000 on appearance-altering surgeries to change her appearance into something a little more Kardashian.

According to a Huffington Post article, Claire Leeson used credit cards to pay for a makeover to look like Kim Kardashian, which involved breast implants, hair extensions, spray tans and makeup and clothing similar to what to the reality star wears.

From teeth-whitening to silicone pants, Leeson’s escapades plunged her into a debt that she says she won’t be able to get out of.

I can’t fathom why someone would poor this much money into changing their appearance. The article states that Leeson used this as a way to boost her confidence after being bullied about her appearance in high school.

I’m all for retail therapy when you’re feeling down, and I have nothing against people who decide to get plastic surgery — it’s just not a choice I’d ever make for myself. The thing about this is that Leeson went into debt to look like someone she wasn’t.

I have been teased about my appearance before — who hasn't — and I’ve wanted to change how I look, but those feelings passed the older I got. I learned to embrace the way I look because beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

She put herself in debt to turn herself into someone else, someone else who already exists. She was already beautiful before these drastic changes to her appearance were made, before she lost all this money. 

Leeson's decision was irresponsible, and sadly mirrors others that have been made in the past, such as the woman who spent $25,000 to look like Jennifer Lawrence and the 33-year-old man who spent $100,000 to look like Justin Bieber.

Changing your appearance isn't worth putting yourself in debt. It's better to learn to embrace who you are, rather than turn yourself into someone else, because someone out there will think the real you is beautiful. 

Marvel did not need to change Thor

By Sheena Marvin          Last updated: 07/16/14 1:32pm         

Thor is now a woman.

There is no She-Thor, no new character, not even an alternate universe. This is the new Thor.

I can understand that Marvel is targeting a more female audience with a feminine superhero, but I don't see how replacing an existing male superhero with a new female lead is the way to go.

Honestly, there are women out there who watch the Thor movies only to see Chris Hemsworth in action.

The reasoning behind this stems from the norse mythology of Mjolnir, the mystical hammer wielded by Thor. The hammer bears an inscription that proclaims, "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor." This is essentially saying the power the hammer holds is not just exclusive for Thor, but anyone who is worthy can use it. 

Thor, son of Odin and current owner of Mjolnir, finds himself to be unworthy of the hammer, so in his place a new female character becomes the new "Thor," which is now evidently a title and not a name. 

I have no idea what Marvel was thinking when the decision to replace Thor was made — it's just confusing. We already know Thor as the masculine, power- wielding god of thunder. What do we call Odin's son now? 

"That other Thor who was Thor once but he doesn't have powers anymore" does not seem appropriate. I am all for female superheroes being powerful and kicking butt, but this is unnecessary when someone brand new with their own backstory and franchise could be created, or even within Asgard — Sif is a strong female character that could be developed. There is no need to replace a superhero that we adore.

Experience concerts, don't just record them

By Meagan Beck          Last updated: 07/14/14 2:53pm         

When I look back on some of my favorite memories, I think about favorite concerts I have gone to and had a great time enjoying the moment with my friends.

But at this concert — and this is a huge trend with all shows — audience members would rather record the artist in front of them than enjoy the moment.

Last week, I went to a concert and had a really great time seeing two bands live. I attend a decent amount of shows because the atmosphere is like no other.

The people around me at the concert last week taking pictures and videos didn’t look like they were having fun, which is a real shame.

Most of the time, people are recording songs or snapping pictures with their iPhone. Most camera phones are equipped with decent quality lenses, but they obviously do not compare to a professional camera.

A recording on a phone is also going to be shaky because getting a steady shot while trying to dance is impossible. The recording will probably pick up the shouting from the person you’re standing next to at a show, too.

Overall, pictures and video taken at a show will be relatively low-quality so what is the point in taking them? To upload to YouTube? To enjoy the concert later?

I’ll admit, I have gone to a couple shows where I have taken lots of pictures. Afterwards, though, I think to myself, “why didn’t I just enjoy the show?”

Concert tickets aren’t cheap. When the final song is played and you realize you spent half the show trying to get the perfect shot, it almost feels like a waste.

Shows are meant to be enjoyed in the moment. Going to a concert is a chance to forget everything happening outside the area. It’s a time to be excited about hearing your favorite songs from an artist raw and in person.

It’s always nice to go back and reminisce with a couple of decent-quality pictures from a show, but it will be a much better experience if you’re focusing your mind and energy on the band — not your camera phone.

Sportsmanship is far more important than wins or losses

By Michael Kransz          Last updated: 07/10/14 2:56pm         

While some were busy posting videos of Germany's 7-1 victory over Brazil to porn sites, with videos titled "Young Brazilians get f***ed by entire German Soccer Team," one Brazilian spectator displayed the utmost of sportsmanship.

His name is Clovis Fernandes, and he's the self-proclaimed 12th player for the Brazil national team, according to an interview with FIFATV.

Following the German-Brazil blowout soccer match, the internet has been abuzz with images of Fernandes.

During the soccer match photographers captured Fernandes clutching a World Cup replica and looking on in deep sorrow. Then, later, a smiling Fernandes was spotted handing his prized possession away to a German fan.

Rumor has it, he had these words to say: "Take it to the final! As you can see, it is not easy, but you deserve it, congratulations!" according to the Independent.

Fernandes' display of sportsmanship is exactly the reason why sports have been played for thousands of years and will continue to be played for thousands more.

Sports have a near-immortal stature because they transcend all differences and borders; they are a testament to the achievements of human ability, not those of a nations, races or genders.

Sure, we identify with the teams of our colleges, our cities and our nations, but when we, as spectators, act in bitterness and spite after our team's loss, we become petty and make sports all the less enjoyable and all the less uniting.

Sports are more than wins and losses. Sports are enjoyable for what occurs during the match itself, with all the skill, strength, luck and cleverness that are displayed.

When Fernandes gave away that which signified his love for the Brazil national team and wished the best for those whose team beat his, it was a moment of sports transcending the petty squabbles and shining through as a testament to the human.

Burger King's Pride Whopper is great for LGBTQ awareness

By Meagan Beck          Last updated: 07/06/14 4:51pm         

Last week in San Francisco, the city held its 44th annual Pride Celebration and Parade, and Burger King offered a rainbow-wrapped Pride Whopper.

With CEOs of different companies voicing discriminating opinions, seeing one among the crowd showing support is refreshing.

The “Pride Whopper” had the phrase “we are all the same inside” written on it. At $4.19, the Pride Whopper was exactly the same as a regular whopper from Burger King.

According to an article in The Detroit Free Press, money raised from Pride Whopper sales was to be donated to the Burger King McLamore Foundation, which provides scholarships benefiting LGBTQ high school seniors graduating in 2015.

The Detroit Free Press also said the specific location handed out and estimated 50,000 rainbow Burger King crowns to parade spectators and marchers.

Senior Vice President of global brand management at Burger King said in The Detroit Free Press article said the Pride Whopper shows how the Burger King brand believes in self expression.

More companies should show their support for the LGBTQ community and not just during Pride Week.

Sadly, the Market Street Burger King was the only location to offer this special item. Due to its success, it would be great for Burger King’s image if the Pride Whopper was available in every city when Pride Week is occurring.

The Detroit Free Press Article said Burger King has no plan to bring the promotion to other cities but the promotion is worth broadening.

Providing the Pride Whopper is not only a conversation starter but also raises awareness for the LGBTQ community.

Lansing’s own 25th annual Pride Week begins on August 22 and who knows — maybe the “Pride Whopper,” or another similar support campaign, will be available and rainbow-colored Burger King crowns will be seen during the parade.

Hunters don't hunt just for sport

By Beth Waldon          Last updated: 07/02/14 1:54pm         

Texas University Tech cheerleader Kendall Jones is under personal attack by animal rights activists as she continues to hunt big game in Africa. At first I assumed she was killing these animals for fun and disapproved of her for it, but then I discovered she might be doing more good for wildlife than people realize. 

Jones has stirred up all kinds of controversy with the use of her "Support Kendall" Facebook page. I've seen a mix of reactions spread across my Facebook newsfeed, "You go girl!" or "These are animals that my coworkers, friends, and I have given our lives to protecting and to see someone make a spectacle of murdering them is not only disheartening; it's disgusting." 

Either way, Jones has everyone's attention. 

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition requesting to ban her page from Facebook. Meanwhile, a petition was started in South Africa, signed by more than 38,000 people requesting to ban Jones from Africa. 

As I continued to read about Jones and her mission, one question came to mind: If it's not for the sport, why does she do it?

One major theme that appeared on Jones' support page was wildlife conservation. At first I thought I was missing something and I kept wondering, how does she conserve wildlife if she's killing it, especially if some of these animals are endangered species?

On the Kendall Support page, Teddy Roosevelt and his conservation activism was admired. The page mentioned that even the "father of conservation" hunted big game. Here's a quote from the page that sums up Jones' perspective: "How can it be possible that someone can love the earth, and take from the Earth in the name of conservation? For some folks, they'll never understand. For the rest of us...we were born that way."

I did some research on a few reasons why hunting conserves wildlife and I was caught by surprise. According to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, hunters pay $796 million each year for hunting licenses and fees. This money goes towards conservation programs. 

Here's a complete list of reasons why hunting is conservation.

If those who are attacking Jones would take a second to acknowledge her conservation efforts rather than spend so much time hating her, they'd be surprised. 

Jones managed to feed over 100 villagers with the meat from an elephant she hunted.  Not only that, but she helped conserve the White Rhino population by assisting a veterinarian take a rhino's blood and DNA samples, get measurements, treat a leg injury and provide antibiotics.

After taking all of that into account, she doesn't seem so bad after all.