Saturday, December 13, 2008

Waterfalls and Blood in the Streets

Final Somalia Video-
The story of Somalia is complex, disheartening and violent. It can be hard to imagine the atrocities that are occurring there daily. Because it’s not right in front of us, the brutality can seem unreal. Citizens and the American media tend to think of things in black and white when it comes to foreign conflicts, and the subsequent news stories and conversations about Somalia reflect this way of thinking according to some native Somali’s. But to a certain Somali refugee living and studying to be a journalist in this country, the almost 20-year long civil war is never far from her heart and her mind.

“I don’t feel complete. I’m here but part of me is not,” Somali refugee and University of Massachusetts student Yasmine Farh said in a recent interview about her life in Somalia and as a refugee now living in America; a land she believes is not doing enough to help and is negatively contributing to the conflict. While describing her life and journey from a worn-torn country, Farh casts new, insiders light on some of these negative instances, including the Western Media’s reporting on the piracy of shipping vessels occurring in the seas just off the coast of Somalia and the perceived lack of help from the United Nations.

Somalia had been without an effective government for a little over 17 years until 2002 when a new government was elected. “Things have not improved there, actually things have [become] worse,” said Farh. “Because now there is piracy which is basically a group of men who are upset about other nations coming into the seas to dump waste or steal fish,” she added. In 1991, warlords overthrew a dictatorship and then turned on one another creating the dangerous crossroads the country now is steeped in.

Because the new Somalia government isn’t able or willing to tell these nations to stop, the breach of the waters, the young men who wield violence to stop them and the ensuing media’s reporting on the subject will continue to complete the vicious circle. “Initially the piracy started when Somali’s became fed up with the people coming to dump and steal, it’s now turned out to be a business for them,” Farh said. Journalists also have not asked the pertinent questions and have forgotten the initial cause of the piracy Farh believes. “I’m very much disappointed with the media because I feel they have not been objective and forward with Somali. No one asks the question ‘why does this country not have a [legitimate] government?’” said Farh.

The fact that the media concentrates on the most violent cities in Somalia instead of the peaceful ones is also evidence, Farh believes, of bias and propaganda. “Journalists always cover areas that are bad, like Mogadishu, never cities like Carmooyin,” she said. Carmooyin is rapidly growing and it is the third largest city of the Bari region. It is also the only planned city in Somalia.

Yasmine and her mother have returned to visit her homeland, dispelling the notion of a destroyed country. “Somalia is not as bad as the media puts it; there are people there who are living good lives and my mother and I have gone back,” said Farh. Although Yasmine currently resides in the U.S. and only visits Somalia, her story and her heart live back home.

“The journey of my life is English, but I still feel like a refugee,” she said. Farh’s story traces from Somalia to the “disease invested” Kenya refugee camp called Otango to America. “When my family left Somalia, everything was still intact; the houses were fine and no chaos,” she said. Her whole life until that point was then left behind. “We left all our belongings thinking we’d be going back,” she added. Soon after, the president fled and then chaos erupted. “The capital fell and then all the other little cities,” said Farh. This is when her family made their way to Kenya.

“My experiences in Kenya were not very good because I felt like the U.N. failed us,” she said. The conditions in the camp were bad, rife with disease and little food and shelter. “The houses we lived in were from trees the refugees made,” she said. To sum up her time in Otango and to illustrate the United Nations’ way of helping, Farh recited a common adage. “If you teach a boy how to fish he’ll eat for life, but if you give him a fish he’ll be begging for life.” The officials expected them to live off some rice but never taught them how to get it. “It was basically that,” she said. “They divided us instead of saying ‘what do you need?’”

Before leaving Somalia, the war personally affected her family, more so her mother and younger brothers. “War was a thrill for me because during it we traveled all over Somali to places I didn’t know existed – to beautiful waterfalls for example,” she said. But it was not all good. “I have seen blood in the streets, and the not knowing what is going to happen is the worst part,” she added.

One positive thing that has come out of the war for Yasmine Farh is a new and pure motivation. “I became inspired after reading U.S. articles about people who where just like me. I would say, ‘oh my goodness, they got it wrong,'" she said. “I know how it feels to have everything you love being taken away from you.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

Heated Passions Erupt, Accusations Fly

On Wednesday evening the UMass political group "Save Darfur" and "Amnesty International," sponsored "Raise Hope for the Congo," an event to be held in Bartlet 65 featuring journalist and former member of the Clinton administration, John Prendergast. Prendergast is co-chair of the "ENOUGH Project," which is an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity.

Prendergast was also joined by physician Dr. Mukwege (After another guest cancelled - UN Goodwill Ambassador Jimmie Briggs,) who works helping rape victims in the only all-women hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo - The Panzi Hospital. The event was to concentrate on the current crisis in the Congo, which has played host to "The world's deadliest conflict since World War II," and to especially shine a harsh light on the fact that the militias in eastern Congo are using sexual violence against women and girls as a weapon and tool to advance their play to destroy communities and exert tight control over natural resources.

Prendergast was the first to speak, and he gave a fairly succinct, history and summary of the crisis that has spanned 12 long years and has resulted in the deaths of 45,000 each month. That specific number comes from Prendergast and the "RAISE Hope for Congo" campaign, which is a specific project push of ENOUGH. This number of supposed dead seemed to spark the small flame of contention that had been simmering quietly in the 10th row from the front of the stage.

Once Mr. Prendergast, the good doctor and Candice Knezevic, the manager of the Enough campaign finished their presentation, the event was opened up to questions from the small audience and answers from the guests. After a fairly uncontroversial question posed to Prendergast - (How do we go about punishing the rebel militia leaders when the 'RAISE Hope..' movement in itself preaches peace & understanding,) a white, medium statured, bald man with a white, tucked-in T shirt, large vein bulging in his neck and black artisan glasses shot up from his seat like a Jack 'n' the Box that was wound too tightly by some snotty-nosed kid.

"WHY DON'T YOU TELL THE TRUTH JOHN," he yelled as the audiences' blood pressure rocketed. "WHY DON'T YOU TELL US WHAT YOUR REALLY ABOUT?" he screamed as he turned to face the people seated behind him. From what I could understand, once I regained my composure, was that this man believed Prendergast and others in the U.S. government were somehow involved in keeping the violent fighting going and ultimately profiting from it. "JOHN KNOWS WHO I AM! TELL THE REAL TRUTH. THE NUMBER OF DEAD IS MORE LIKE TEN MILLION!" Not the 5.5 million the journalist, author and activist proposed during his talk.

A number of male students in the audience began to yell at the man to "shut the **** up, and leave." A teacher approached him and asked him politely to go, but the passionate man refused until "PEOPLE START ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. WHY IS IT SO HARD TO TELL THE TRUTH JOHN!" At about this point two African American women in the 3rd row began to loudly proclaim that although he might be going about it in the wrong way, he was right. This validation seemed to calm the bald, non- UMass student. A visibly shaken John Prendergast began to answer another question posed from a soft-spoken audience member. - "Who do the Congolese want as a leader in their government, and how can the U.S. administration help? - As he started to respond - "THE ADMINISTRATION...! OH MAN. THE TRUTH JOHN," the 10th row shook.
"Man, we have some really disruptive people here today. Well we tried," the activist said as he abruptly grabbed his notes and T-Mobile cell, got up and left the stage as the rest of the audience clapped loudly, apparently attempting to provide their own validation to themselves and the ruined night.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

After Terror Attack Rocks Mumbai, Questions Simmer

As of today, American and Indian news outlets are reporting that the total number of civilians dead, after the violent three day siege in India's bustling luxury hotel, cafe and landmarks district, at around 200, with five of those fatalities being Americans.

Also on Saturday, as bodies were still being pulled out of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, many questions have begun to be bandied about in the news - Why weren't the Indian authorities aware of such a deadly plot brewing, and why didn't they respond to the attacks quicker once notified? Pakistan involvement is questioned as well as what the Times calls "Perhaps the most troubling question to emerge Saturday for the Indian authorities" - how were just 10 gunmen (If Washington Post reports are true,) able to cause so much damage and terror, all the while holding off Indian soldiers and police for more than three days "in three different buildings?"

Also, new reports this evening are reporting that the tragedy could have been much worse. CNN quotes a source saying "We found bullets with them, hand grenades, bombs," R.R. Patil, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra state, said at a news conference. "Based on our investigation, we believe they had planned to kill 5,000 people."

After the initial shock of the carnage wears off, the media will be able to capture the whole story.
*Update* Arrest Made

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Professor Speaks, Enlightens Crowd of The Strife in Somalia

Link to Professor Abdi Samatar Video-

Located in the Horn of Africa on the eastern coast of the African Continent lies the country of Somalia. Somalia's terrain consists of plateaus, plains and highlands and it is a place where close to 10 million people of numerous and varied ethnic groups currently live, divided by European-imposed boundaries.

The country's history is one of much internecine bloodshed and strife, both political and ethnic which has been helped along by outside forces according to some scholars. In Amherst, Massachusetts there is a small population of Somalis who are working, living, receiving education and also attempting to bring attention to their country's violent history, in hopes that one day soon the people of Somalia can overcome the institutionalized violence and continuous mishandling of the country by its leaders and past occupiers.

On a recent cold and blustery Autumn evening Abdi Samatar, professor of geography and global studies at the University of Minnesota gave an expansive speech at the downtown "Food For Thought" bookstore touching on "two tendencies" in the politics of Somalian society which in turn he believes has created vast and violent struggles in the context of two recent wars - the Cold War and the more ambiguous War on Terror.

“Prior to 1960 there were what I would argue two tendencies in the politics of [Somalian] society. One that I would suggest was a civic tendency; a democratic one, sort of a public service one, and one that was sectarian in nature," said Professor Samatar. The professor believes this is where the many facets of conflicts between other countries has affected Somalian society.

"It’s the way in which these two played into the hands with outsiders that creates the crisis with the population we have right here,” the professor said as he pointed to a map of Somalia. Samatar also is hopeful that the current election results in America will lead to inspiration in the Somali Republic.

“I think something happened two weeks ago in our country which hopefully, I’m skeptical but I am always an optimistic person, hopefully will provide new spaces for civic minded people to bring our country together, allowing local people to determine their fate.” The bookstore was ghostly quiet as Samatar spoke and the 70 or so attendees sitting on metal folding chairs were listening closely and taking in his message of hope.

“The professor seems to feel that Somalia is a case where people power could actually overcome institutionalized violence," said Dean Cycon founder of Dean’s Beans organic coffee company. "And I hope he’s right, and I hope it happens in the next decade or so because it’s been such a sad situation for so long there,” he added.

The ethnic Somalian women's group "Walaaloo," was in attendance as well. Walaaloo is a group of Somalian "sisters," who have come together in Amherst to share each others stories of survival and mutual love for their war-torn country. "I am part of the Walaalo, Somali sisters collectivists, and we are proud of it, and we want to tell our story to the world, said founding member and translator Nasra Ali.

Yasmin Ahmed, also a founding member of Walaalo, translator and storyteller wasn't as optimistic as Cycon as she expressed her concern for the American media's portrayal of her birth place.

“When people hear now-a-days, Somalia, especially you watch the media, whether its CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, you know the main media all they hear about is the pirates in Somalia and the ships,” she said.

Although, with inspired people and dedicated groups such as Walaalo and Professor Samatar, bringing attention to the causes of the Somalian problem and the subsequent solutions will soon become more of a reality.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Post-Election Reactions and Questions on Race

Link to Video

The long, hard-fought battle to become President of the United States of America has finally come to a close, with the young Illinois Senator Barack Hussein Obama winning the polemic heavy contest and accomplishing the task previously believed impossible of becoming the first black man in the country’s 200 year- plus history.

With the close of this historic election, now come many different reactions from the general population (with some people overjoyed and proud and others utilizing the opportunity to spread their racist views,) and tough questions that cut to the heart of society and our beloved country’s storied history. What do the results of the election mean for racism in the country? Is this a turning point? What are people’s reactions?

In the W.E.B. Dubois library on the sprawling campus of the University of Massachusetts, students offered some answers to these decisive questions.

“People of color can feel like they can achieve a lot more now, unity and great things,” said U-Mass senior Sociology major Yocelin Cordones. Most students on the windy, leaf covered Massachusetts campus believed for the most part that the election of Obama does signal a turning point for racism in the country. “This is a real step forward for a majority of Americans, and a step forward in terms of race,” said U-Mass senior Political Science major James M. Greene.

“With [Obama] being a man of color it represents history and change, and we’re not going to have someone with the same policies as Bush” said Cordones. Although the justified feeling of hope was certainly prevalent and understandable, reality and the past is a cold reminder of the need to be cautious. “Just because we voted for Obama, a black man does not mean you can wave a wand and [racism] will be over,” said Greene.

Students feel Obama was able to capture people's votes because of a quality he possess that stacked up to more than just his race. “White people voted for him for his policies and his right decisions,” said Cordones.

The reactions of the students concerning the election were fairly similar and the state of the electorate map elicited amazement as well. “Just in terms of states like Virginia and North Carolina going for Obama after 50 years, moving towards civil rights instead of separate water fountains is a real step forward,” said Greene. “I was for Obama and I was so happy when he won,” said Cordones.

The world is watching and the students at U-Mass will have to wait with them to see what happens after Obama is inaugurated in January, but for now it seems that just being elected by the country is enough for most people.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Proposition #8 Passes in California with Help from the Religious

Thousands of protesters held rallies in California this week in defence of gay marriage. A little more than a week ago voters in the "Sunshine State" voted in approval of a ballot initiative that cancels an earlier court decision legalising gay marriage in the state. The initiative was narrowly approved and opponents of the same-sex nuptials are sad and upset. The media has given broad, well reported coverage to both sides of the controversial issue and the Mormon Church is plum right in the middle.

A November 14th piece by the Times titled "Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage,"
explains how less than two weeks before the election proponents and the chief strategist were worried about the initiative passing because of lack of money in their campaign. “We’re going to lose this campaign if we don’t get more money,” the strategist, Frank Schubert, said in the Times. So after an urgent appeal a man connected with the Mormon Church gave $1 million to the cause and volunteers, ultimately helping to drive a sharp advertising campaign and gain 52% of the vote. Protesters to the ban zeroed in on the church.

The LA Times ran an article in early November profiling the protests against the "Church of Latter Day Saints." "It was the latest in an escalating campaign directed against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its role in marshaling millions of dollars in contributions from its members for the successful campaign to take away same-sex marriage rights," the piece reads. Even Gov. Schwarzenegger got in on the action, quoted in another LA Times article telling CNN, "It's unfortunate, obviously, but it's not the end." Hopefully he's right.

Friday, November 14, 2008

State of Flux

A large part of the MSM coverage lately has been what the Republican party needs to do, now in the aftermath of a crushing election. Republican pundants, congressmen and political consultants have been making the rounds offering their various nuggets of wisdom as to such issues and concerns as 'the GOP needs to go back to their roots and become more conservative' and then the other side of the coin - that surprisingly has garnered some support (Like from Florida Gov. Charlie Crist-see link) and thru op/eds and TV appearances staunch Republicans are now saying they need to devise a new, more moderate coalition.

The crux of the new Republican coalition stems on more results and less ideology. A November 7th by story by James Rosen explains this well "Just as quickly, a split emerged between Republican loyalists advocating a purer form of conservative ideology and those urging a less-dogmatic flexibility."
A November 8th article in the Times by Danny Hakim centers on a small area of the desperate party - New York Republicans and their belief in redemption. "Get back to basics, embrace the party’s core values and recruit a generation of younger leaders and voters," he says are some ideas he's heard.

No matter what happens and whether the GOP can come back strong in 2012, this tumultuous time for the "Cut Taxes," party will certainly create an grand opportunity for the media.

*Update* -A good Politico piece related to this topic of Republican split.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fellow Travelers

At the very end of this historically long, passionate and important election the Republicans pulled out the last of a long arsenal of wedge issues - (gay marriage, taxes, etc,) and crazy accusations -(Obama is a terrorist, & wants to teach sex education to five year old's etc.,) and wildly fired it off into the media and beyond, hoping it would scare people into voting for McCain - Senator Barack Hussein Obama is a Socialist. This kind of "Swift Boat," low blow tactics worked quite well in 2004 and got people talking this year but by in large the American people and media obviously disregarded it by their vote and writings.

By using this long ago and spider- webbed, dusty tactic, some in the media saw this as the final, sad end of the year- 2000 John McCain and by the people rejecting the opprobrium - a change in America. Hendrick Hertzburg's November 3rd piece for The New Yorker's "Comment," section succinctly writes on socialism and it's use by past Republican candidates such as Goldwater & Reagan accusing JFK & Johnson of Socialism. He writes "Sometimes, when a political campaign has run out of ideas and senses that the prize is slipping through its fingers, it rolls up a sleeve and plunges an arm, shoulder deep, right down to the bottom of the barrel."

Micheal Cooper writes for the Times about socialism that "But some political scientists and economists said the old labels and buzzwords might no longer pack the same punch." So, the election is finally over after two long years and the country waits to see what Obama will do to enact the "change," he's touted. But it's clear, the same old tactics and Karl Rove-ish way of campaigning is in need of a change itself.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Big Blue Makes a Comeback

The presidential election is winding down; McCain's camp is attempting to deal with insiders' frustrated leaks and squabbles (Which go back as far as 2007) to the press concerning "Palin going rouge," and at the same time trying to squeak out a public show of solidarity and optimism, but with seven days left until November 4th the electoral map is looking shockingly blue.

An Associated Press piece released today on-line reports that Obama leads or is tied in eight important states, such as Colorado and Florida, which is surprising because these states are traditionally Republican. It looks bad for Senator John McCain and it looks as though this Navy pilot needs to eject. "If you believe in miracles," said GOP consultant Joe Gaylord of Arlington, Va., "you still believe in McCain."

A lot of the media, such as The Tribune's "The Swamp," are also reporting this week that Obama is winning these states that Bush #43 indeed carried. So, the media seems to me to be doing a thorough job of reporting and polling.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Blowing Winds of Change

The Presidential campaign is winding down and with only 10 days left until November 4th, the strong headwinds seem to be blowing the Democrats way, with Sen. Obama currently leading in electoral votes 375 - 163 and with the majority of the world's news articles and pundents calling the contest in the Illinois senator's favor, it appears as though its over for the GOP. This week, I have scanned the Internet (trying to stay away from partisan sites,) to try and find articles, blogs etc. that include any empirical evidence as to the possibility of Sen. McCain actual winning the "most important election of our lifetime."

In a October 24th post from The New York Times' campaign blog - "Campaign Stops," there is an analysis that basically states through enumerated reasons - " John McCain still has a good chance to win." One reason the author states is because of the possibility of a lopsided system of checks and balances, (If Democrats win the election, the House and Senate, not to mention the White House will be in one parties control,) and the lack of experience factor among other reasons contributes to McCains chances.

Another piece is the's October 24th "America at a Crossroads." The article covers El Dorado Kansas, which Obama has family ties to, and that the majority of folks there are for the 72 year-old Republican. "But family ties only go so far - and the flicker of hope Obama's visit generated among local Democrats has since been snuffed out by the town's overriding conservatism," the article quotes.

As of now, the winds still seem to be blowing at Obama's back, but the contest isn't over yet, and 10 days is a long time in politics to turn this thing around.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

"Joe the Plumber"= Sam the Tax Owing Non-Plummer

During the final presidential debate held on Wednesday night at Hofstra University, John McCain, in an attempt to surreptitiously frame the last three weeks of the campaign season and paint the Democrats as once again- "tax and spend" liberals who will raise taxes for the struggling middle class, invoked the name of the new GOP pal "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, over twenty times in the 90 minute contest.

Even before the closing statements were uttered, "Joe the Plumber," -(really a symbol for politicians to wield much in the same vein as Chuck Shummer's imaginary template blue collar family), was being vetted by the press. What did the media find out? Probably some things the McCain campaign didn't know about or didn't care about since the encounter caught on tape between Obama and Wurzelbacher was too good to pass up. Here's what has been discovered in the last few days.
His real name is Samuel Joeseph Wurzelbacher according to the San Fransico Chronicle's October 17th piece which is quite entertaining. Another piece that reports that he really isn't a licensed plumber and doesn't pay taxes- even though he's quite worried about falling into Obama's 250,000 bracket - is CNN's October 16th article.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Palin Report Released

The big news this morning is the 263 page report from Alaska state legislative investigator Stephen Branchflower, which is said to be released today and contains a finding that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power as Alaskan Governor. How has the MSM done in the early coverage of this scandal?

The Washington Post's piece (linked above,) relates the charges and finding that Palin and her husband Todd, abused both their positions-Todd as the husband of the Governor, and Palin as the one with executive power,) when they launched a campaign to get her ex-brother in law bounced from the state police. I enjoyed the accompanying video package because it does a fairly good job succinctly outlining the whole story.

Politico's " The Arena," which is a new feature on the site- gathers a collection of policy makers and "opinion makers," and debates the news. This morning the discussion is about "Trooper Gate" and the investigative report. Fred Barbash is the moderator and guides folks such as Tim Griffin, Republican attorney and strategist, through a debate on whether or not the finding that Palin "abused her power," will effect the GOP campaign. I liked the expert insight provided by these people who are strategists from both parties, and who have differing opinions.

"Trooper-gate is small potatoes in and of itself. But it will remind people again about McCain’s tendency to make impulsive decisions without sufficient vetting" said Rosabeth Moss Kanter on The Arena.

These two pieces by the media are good examples of interesting, semi-unconventional (not really anymore,) attempts at covering a burgoning problem seeping up from the ground and into McCain's campaign.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

U-Mass and Public Media React To 2nd Debate

The overall consensus concerning U-Mass students and the media community following Twitter during the debate was that neither candidates had made a major blunder or had scored any coveted points with the un-decided voters - which happens to hurt McCain's campaign more than Obama's.

"I think overall both did okay. Neither were great in this setting and neither really wanted to respect the rules they set up," said mralexan on Twitter. Moderator Tom Brokaw seemed to be aggravated when each senator streamed by the agreed upon time limits, and sternly voiced his concerns, with some Twitters responding to the breach with sharp commentary."How do you contain two men like these, McCain's a kiss-ass and Obama wants his message heard?" asked mlyvett, a student at U-Mass.

Some people had strong feelings about Brokaw and his role as moderator. "
Brokaw responsibility was to enforce the rules, if anything he underplayed them when he extended extra time," said kylejelley, a student posting her reactions on Twitter. But the other two men on stage were up to their usually tricks; listening attentively to the questions, but ignoring them and hitting their own talking points-Health care, taxes and the Iraq and Afghanistan war.

Friday, October 3, 2008

First and Only Vice President Debate- Student Analysis

On Thursday night we witnessed the first and only vice president debate- waged between the "hockey mom" newcomer, Gov. Sarah Palin (Lenox Lewis,) and the longtime senator from Delaware, Joe Biden (Mike Tyson.) The world was watching to see who, if anyone, would land the knockout punch on their opponent. Would Palin hold her own and erase definitively from the public memory her recent interview gaffes? Would Biden put his foot in his mouth by talking too much and act too condescending towards the female governor?

University of Massachusetts students geared up to watch the fight to find answers to these questions, as well as the other more important questions on issues and policies.The start of the debate showed Palin a little nervous on her feet. alexdipace noticed the candidates' body language was cordial towards each other and mentioned Palin's unsure response- "Palin definitely seems a little shaky, she doesn't have a prompter this time".Others thought the novice was off to an OK start. laveaux56 says "Palin is actually going okay.... "

A majority of students were turned off by Palin's continuous calling of McCain a "maverick," as well as her statement that she would not be answering the way the moderator and Biden would like. alexa_m aims and takes one shot at both issues-hitting her target with a thud- "Palin is spewing canned language and not responding to the question, already said maverick x2."The students at home liked the way Biden was bringing Barack's statements to the ring, and were also commenting on the fact Biden has women's eyes on him-in a good way. "I enjoy that Biden is referring directly to Obama's statements," said elrenolyds. "Ooo women seem to like Biden. He's going off the charts. What's the appeal?" says kletourno.

The CNN meter drew the students attention again as in the Pres. debate last week-alexa_m said referring to Biden's charm, " According to the CNN debate meter, women are loving him."Towards the end, climate change was another big discussion between the students. jackiebink said referring to Palin, " Is it just me, or did she completely dodge the causes of climate change?"The students seemed to be leaning towards Biden, and most felt he had won the debate. Although, the question of had Palin held her own and completed her job as vice pres. hopeful was answered for mcwalsh24. "She did her job, but as the media begins to pick apart the nuances I am sure it will start to sway people to a particular side."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

College Students Have Invested Interest In Debates

The first presidential debate between Senator’s Barack Obama and John McCain commenced on Friday with the financially unsound economy, education and the protracted war in Iraq garnering the majority of the debate among the candidates, as well as from the audience who watched from home and posted their reactions on Twitter, a social networking and microblogging service.
College students have a large stake in this particular election for many important reasons and therefore, some watched the debate closely to gauge the candidate’s responses to the essential questions. For example, the troubled economy and the education system personally affect the 18-22 year-old age group on a daily basis, whether it’s the distressing worry of a crumbling job market after graduation or the increase of college tuition and the availability or lack there of student loans.
Kletourno who was watching the debate with some friends said “Two of my friends just joined me, Mike and Heidi, and they say ‘amen’ to education as a priority.” KylieJelley, watching the contest live, expressed her own concern with the burgeoning economic crisis. “With the economy continuing like it is, we will have to invest in education,” she said. Education was also spoken about in other underlying topics, such as the now failed government bailout package.
When McCain was asked a question by the moderator concerning the proposed $700 billion government bailout, and what programs he would have to cut out if he were president to help pay for it, McCain verbally maneuvered a bit and then mentioned a “spending freeze.” Erin, a viewer watching with Adampaul33 liked Obama’s response which including an analogy of McCain’s “spending freeze,” and the futile successes it would yield. Adampaul33 said “Erin likes Obama’s analogy on a spending freeze-‘like using a hatchet instead of a scalpel.”
Elreynolds watched the debate with her roommates who were still concentrating on education even as the candidates had moved on to another topic. “Brian thinks that the [education] system is too flawed to ever fix,” said elreynolds.
Another reason that this debate and election have attracted a close eye from the “Millennial” generation is the war in Iraq. Many young people have friends overseas who are fighting in combat situations, and who are risking their lives daily.
One related topic concerning Iraq that the viewers and Barack Obama discussed quite fervently was the question of “Should we have ever gone to Iraq.” Edoody101 said “Whether or not Obama liked the way we entered Iraq, it does not matter since we are there.” “I’m not a huge McCain fan, but I like that he’s looking forward…let’s stop talking about ‘should we have entered Iraq,’” said ereed8. “My friend just got back from Iraq this week…timing is pretty good,” she added.
Foreign policy goes hand in hand with the war, and benjaminswill noticed a tacit tactic employed by McCain during the debate. “McCain is certainly playing up his foreign policy experience,” he said.
Hard issues aside, the viewers also found some humor in watching the candidates. One such instance was the facts that it seemed the Senator’s were blinking excessively during the televised contest. “Ya they’re both blinkers. I guess I can’t use that as the deciding factor in whom I’m going to vote for,” said kletourno.
The debate ended and the audience remarked on the serious stature each candidate displayed throughout and the upcoming debate between Governor Sarah Palin, Joe Biden. “Biden will just overwhelm Governor Palin with his verbiage,” said Ashley_Coulombe.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Twitter's Debate Twitters-A Class Reaction

The first presidential debate was held on Friday night at the University of Mississippi after much speculation that it would be cancelled by Sen. McCain. The U-Mass Multimedia class headed by Steve Fox followed the debates and twittered their comments and the people's reactions around them who were also watching.

The transcript of the class's comments contains some piercing reactions to Sen. McCain's comments on everything from his credibility to run the country, to touting himself as a moderate legislator who reaches across the aisle. For example, elreynolds writes "McCain may be more qualified to deal with the war, but really nothing else for Presidency." McCain made a point in the debate to mention that he was a POW and somehow implies that this makes him qualified for the job. Alexa M who watched the debates with Dan posted a comment from him. "Being a POW doesn't make you more qualified to be president."

A lot of coverage lately in the MSM has been directed towards McCain's shift from the moderate "maverick," he used to be to the hardcore Republican he is now- The twitterer's echoed this sentiment- elreynolds says about McCain that " he doesn't realize how much he's changed."

The subject of war dominated the debates as well as the twitters- benjaminswill commented that he believed Obama answered the question on the threat of Iran and Korea better than McCain. He wrote "Obama just buuuurned McCain on Korea and Iran." ereed8 makes a good point concerning the heated debate between the two candidates on if the country should have have invaded Iraq-"I'm not a huge McCain fan, but I like that he's looking forward... lets stop talking about "should we have gone into Iraq?" edoody101 agreed with their classmate on this issue, writing, "Whether or not Obama liked the way we entered Iraq it does not matter since we are there".

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Aftermath of the Friday Debate

Senator's Barack Obama and John McCain met head to head in their first debate this past Friday at 9.00p.m. This particular blog post is dedicated to picking out good, well reported and fleshed out pieces by the MSM covering the Presidential debate. I'm going to display the best three in my opinion. What constitutes the best piece is a mixture of: an accurate accounting of the important topics discussed during the debate (i.e. the financial crisis, the war,) and where each candidate stands on them, clear, descriptive writing that evokes an image of the contest- it should paint a vivid picture for those people who couldn't watch, and lastly and most important, a solid representation of both sides and no hint of bias. The best three I've found are as follows:

1. The Saturday Sept. 27th Boston Globe

2. The Saturday Sept. 27th New York Times

3. The Associated Press in the Saturday Sept. 27th Washington Post

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dave Maraniss Speaks To U-Mass

Washington Post associate editor, author and Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss delivered a talk on Monday night to The University of Massachusetts campus titled "Playing For Keeps: Race, Sports and Politics." I was sitting in the front of the Flaven Auditorium, and I was able to listen closely to his passions and life stories concerning journalism and the topics he loved to write about most; Race, Politics and Sports. Maraniss began the interesting talk by explaining the story of one of the women he writes about in his new book, "Rome 1960." Wilma Rudolph, and her life as a African American gold medal winner at those 1960 Olympics, was the first root that Maraniss planted in the audiences' mind during the lecture, which by the end, had grown into a complete, interconnected tree with the lives of Sen. Barack Obama and the 1961 Freedom Riders , each contributing a small part to the Civil Rights movement. "There is no obvious connection between those things, but they are deeply connected and the loves of my life, the obsessions of my career as a journalist weave through those three things," said Maraniss.
The lecture was at its best when Maraniss spoke about his personal experience with such people as Ed Temple, the Tennessee Tiger Belles' coach and also the special moment he had when he traveled to Vietnam with a U.S. Vietnam veteran to meet the Vietcong that had been trying to kill the U.S. Veteran some decades earlier. The way that Maraniss wove together the impassioned topics of race, sports and politics in America with his life experiences as a journalist made for a thoroughly enjoyable lecture.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Media Continues It's Coverage Of The "Straight-Talker."

Gebe Martinez of the web site "Politico," penned an article on Thursday titled "McCain zigzags on immigration," which efficiently recounts the co-sponsored (Sen. McCain and Sen. Edward Kennedy) 2006 Senate immigration bill, and lays out the many instances where the Arizona Senator has changed his position on the comprehensive immigration legislation.

Martinez does a good job of putting the "zig zags," out there so his audience can then decide for themselves if the changes in McCain's stance are relevant to the election.
The first sign of McCain's shifting happened in 2007 according to Martinez, when Republican voters expressed a strong dislike and protest against the controversial bill which among other legislation included the legalization of 12 million undocumented immigrants. Seeing this, McCain backed away from the measure. A few weeks ago the 72 year-old Senator mentioned "comprehensive, as in one bill," when speaking to Latino community leaders about the bill Martinez writes.
Another good example of the media's reporting on the immigration bill issue, concerning Presidential nominee John McCain's "concession to conservatives," is the progressive non-profit research and info. center "Media Matters'," January 31st piece. This post deals with an appearance by Dana Bash, CNNs congressional correspondent, on American Morning , in which he talks about how McCain said he would not vote for his own legislation allowing citizenship for immigrants. "No, I would not, because we know what the situation is today. The people want the borders secured first," said McCain on January 30th.
The excellent aspect of this post is that Media Matters goes a step further and writes what Bash left out- that just days earlier, McCain had said he would sign that very legislation into law if he were elected president. These discrepancies were brought to my attention strictly because I read them in these two sources. If not for the investigative prowess I probably would not have known the facts of this issue. The media's job is to report the news. As Ernest Hemingway said, "Good writing is true writing."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Research Assignment

It is not a good idea to read, study or cite something on the web and just take the information as true. There are techniques involved that will help you use the web effectively, and wisely. I studied 1 search engine -(Google,) 1 website - ( The Nation,) and 1 blog - (Hendrick Hertzberg,) to apply the techniques suggested by Henderson , and to see how whether or not the information was reliable.

First, I studied the mega search engine Google, to see how reliable the results are and if it should be used instead of going to the library and opening actual research books and periodicals, as well as who they are to then determine accuracy. Hendrson suggests finding out about the author/authors of the product to determine the intent and also to discover if you "are in the right place" for your needs. I easily found a "About" Google page that included their products and corporate information. I then moved on to the web site of the progressive magazine, "The Nation." When you are using a website to gleam information from it, Henderson suggests that you look for a "About the authors link," because it will help to see if the information is reliable, what the authors angle is, his previous writings etc. The Nation does a good job of providing this info - For The Nation's site I didn't see available the link. Henderson also suggests that you pose the question "Does the site include a way to contact the authors?" The Nation didn't have this link on their site.
For Hendrick Hertzberg's blog "Notes on Politics, Mostly," there is an easily accessible link to all his archived writings, which is a technique Henderson suggest as a way to learn if the author is reliable. Although I didn't find a link or way to contact Hertzberg, I believe his work is accurate because of the mere scope of his archived writings that can be seen on the "New Yorker's" site.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This Week On The Trail

The 2008 race for the highest job in the land, President of the United States, is heating up and getting interesting. The economy slid further on Monday into a dubious tailspin, turning the tide slightly in Sen. Obama's favor, but alas, the attack ammunition is continuing to be fired from both candidate's sides as the country holds its breath in anticipation that the landscape of American finance will return to normal.
The New York Times wrote about the most recent financial crisis to level Wall Street occurring on Monday, which held the possibility of American International Group, the nation's biggest insurance company, collapsing and the previously unthinkable, now a reality, bankruptcy of securities firm Lehman Brothers.
In reaction to this crisis, the candidates have both responded this week by focusing more narrowly on the economy and offering a deluge of shots against each other's campaigns at the same time. On Tuesday, McCain changed his long held stance on regulation, and referring to stricter rules and oversights for financial companies he said in the Washington Post that "Government has a clear responsibility to act in defense of the public interest, and that's exactly what I intend to do." Sen. Obama was in Colorado this week and reiterated his economic proposals, as well as scolded McCain for a comment he had made on Monday. The comment was that the economy is fundamentally sound. Sen. Obama said, "How can John McCain fix our economy if he doesn't understand it's broken?" McCain said this week in an ad that Obama's solution to the economic trouble is only "talk and taxes."
I hope that we as Americans can start to get the actual hard policies from these two candidates instead of a barrage of artillery from the culture wars.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thomas Freidman-Making America Stupid

I would like to post links to this blog of editorials and specific articles that I think are important, well-written etc. This Sept. 13th New York Times column is a good first example. I liked the tone of Freidman's writing here as well as the easy to comprehend- common sense.

Read On:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The 2008 Online News Association Conference

The 2008 ONA Conference began this week (A conference for people who work or have interest in on-line media and news.)- September 11th-13th in Washington D.C. The conference is sold out and lucky attendees will be involved in workshops, many discussions on multimedia tools, merging newsrooms and also a packed tutorial on "Social Networking and the News," which will be mulling over the building of such tools as Facebook applications and the common mistakes that are made when integrating social networking and the news.

Being a current college senior at The University of Massachusetts ,I am inundated daily with talk of Facebook and the less popular MySpace. It has drawn attention from the terrestrial news organizations and their development teams. Some reasons why? Because Facebook is one of the top sites on the internet, and because the advertisers much desired after age bracket- the 18-24 year-old's, are the main group who are populating it. Their are many advantages to the media using Facebook such as creating a community; linking journalists and their audience, but there are also questions concerning Social Networking Sites and the use by journalists. This is a unique time in media's life and the ONA Conference is exploring and testing the choppy waters.

Another area of multimedia journalism the conference is covering is the tapping into of User-Generated Content. I think the aspect of "Citizen Journalism," is quite an interesting one- with all its advantages, such as giving the audience unprecedented power which in turn creates community and ubiquitous, broader coverage (and striking photos) of important stories. But the downsize is the problem of journalistic ethics, reliability and accuracy, and objectivity.

"Starting a conversation with the audience, comments and user interaction can lead to interview sources and story ideas as well. To make this happen, a two-way relationship can be fostered through discussion groups, interactive blogs and responses to readers' comments." This is a quote on ONA's site from Morgan Phelps who covered the conference. I personally believe in the power of citizen journalism and user-generated content, and the idea Phelps mentions about the creation of story ideas and interviewing sources is an end to unilateral reporting.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The GOP Women

In part two of Gov. Sarah Palin's interview with ABC news, special attention was paid to the now controversial close to $200 million in federal earmarks she backed this year as Governor of Alaska. Palin's current stump speech is peppered with the fact that pet projects are a waste, and John McCain who is an avid opponent of them, will put a stop to the needless spending. This was not the only GOP "half truth," exposed and reported on by the MSM this week. The New Yorker's Ariel Levy has an article titled "The Lonesome Trail," in the September 15th issue just released to news-stands. The article is an expansive and well reported piece covering Republican Presidential Nominee Sen. John McCain's second wife, Cindy McCain, her life and interests, and her touted claim that the McCain family is "traditional.". Both these pieces of journalism do the job of bringing the truth to light, but will voters take notice? Will it make a difference in the November election?

"It has always been an embarrassment that abuse of [the] earmark process has been accepted in Congress. And that's what John McCain has fought. And that's what I joined him in fighting," she [Palin] said. This is a quote from Charles Gibson's last interview with Palin on Friday. Concerning the millions in requested earmarks- even as Palin defended them, McCain told a television audience that she had never requested them. What will come of this contradiction? Has the media completed it's job, and now its up to the citizenry to do what they may with the info?

Levy writes about Cindy McCain and the adoption of her now 16 year-old daughter. A story that Mrs. McCain frequently mentions on the campaign trail is how she brought the little girl home from a Bangladesh orphanage and the first time her husband knew about it, the new mother and baby were on American soil. The story from Cindy McCain's view is told to show the "open-heartiness," and compassion of her husband. But not everyone sees it that way. There are some discrepancies in this tale that Levy exposes- Mother Teresa supposedly talked with and convinced Cindy to adopt the child. The only problem is that Mother Teresa wasn't there at the same time McCain was in Bangladesh- Also, Cindy McCain has said many times that their family is "traditional," just like any hardworking American family. But as Levy writes, it's kind of strange that the adoption of a baby-one in which Sen. McCain would be the father of for life- wasn't discussed. This shows a living of two separate lives. This supposed "traditional" family is anything but traditional. For example, a Politico article on Sept. 12th reports the couple file taxed separately. Now these discrepancies are not the end of the world by any means, but thanks to the solid reporting, we as voters can decide if these "half truths" might snowball into larger ones.

These are examples of the MSM doing a good job of mining the truth, and serving it to the public. In my opinion, the people should consider carefully these contradictions coming from the Republicans. But then again, they're just politicians.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Web Sources Helpful to Journalists

  1. Romensko- This is a good source for journalists because of the linking feature. Romensko posts all the important news effecting journalists and their craft to this site. I believe it to be very convenient to have all the stories in one place; saving journalists time. I find the pieces to be timely and helpful.
  2. Project for Excellence in Journalism- This is a good source for journalists because it's site has many features. One, it has a 'Daily Briefing' of the day's digested media news in one section. It has three critical offerings as well- a data library with charts and numbers that could be used in reporters articles-An analysis section that contains commentaries on news- And a 'News Index' which lists such things as 'Top stories across all media' with charts and data. Having all this in one place is helpful.
  3. SCOTUSblog- This is a blog that strictly covers the U.S. Supreme Court. This is a good source for journalists because it contains accurate and plain language on S.C. rulings and cases that a journalist can reference if writing an article on a specific SC case or needing background information.
  4. POLITICO- This news site is fairly moderate in partisanship, which is good for journalists. Another reason I think the site is good for journalists is because they can go to it to read quality articles and basically use it to get a lot of their political news. I really applaud the way the pieces are divided conveniently into headings; Lobbying, Congress, Life, Multimedia etc. This makes it a time-saver for journalists on deadline who need information.
  5. The Economist-Daily News Analysis- This part of the Economist's website is helpful for journalists because of it's large and international scope. It's divided up into specific sections such as Europe, Science & Technology, and Middle East & Africa. I think journalists could go to this website to begin a fact check, gain story ideas, and keep informed on the world's news, all in one succinct section.

The Ties That Bind

The first thing you learn in school as a journalism student is that journalism's main function is to serve as a watchdog, and to keep the government in check while at the same time informing the public if the government tries to do anything that would be detrimental to life, liberty and democracy.
Now, some news organizations do a great job serving as the people's watchdog. A lot of the times reporters can go places ordinary citizens cannot, and they can gleam info from accumulated sources high in governmental positions who will speak with them because of the fact they know they can remain anonymous if necessary and the good journalists will have a solid reputation. This is how huge stories, with human consequences get broken for all the world to see. For example, Seymour Hersh was able to break the Abu Ghraib story partly because people in the current Bush administration were disgusted with the fact that young, mostly southern M.P. Brigade soldiers were torturing Middle Eastern prisoners by taking nude photos, attacking them physically and mentally with guard dogs, and making them strike faux masturbatory poses, so they talked. (The M.P. 's didn't think of these acts on their own, members high up in Bush's cabinet had read Patai's book on the Arab mind and knew how to maximize humiliation).
So this blog is going to deal with the current 2008 Presidential elections and how well the media is or isn't applying their watchdog function and covering the election, if media is bringing to light issues that the public wants to know, and to ultimately help the citizenry make an informed vote. An example of the articles I'll concentrate on and an example of the media doing some good digging is the New York Time's Sept. 10th article "08 Rivals Have Ties to Loan Giants." It is as follows-

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Defibrillators open patients up to privacy risks - News

Defibrillators open patients up to privacy risks - News: "There has never been a case of a hacker targeting an implantable cardiac defibrillator, but the researchers stressed the purpose of the study was designed solely to identify and prevent future risks to patients."

One of my best Spring 2008 "Daily Collegian" articles..

First Things First

I am relatively settled into my internship here in Somerville Ma, outside Boston. I am living with a friend of my sisters, a blond, recently single women, in Malden. Her ex-fiance lives in the house with us, (A tall, red haired moody sona fa gun) seeing how neither of them has enough cheese to buy the other one out.. My parents are luckly paying her the 400$ a month rent she/they desire. ( usual is for NO MONEY). She is nice and works near the Fleet Center. I will be going back to the University of Massachusetts in the fall, and look forward to my political science & journalism classes. I've really started to dig reading political writings: seymour hersh, noam chomsky, Hendrik Hertzberg.... I feel a tad bit vulnerable getting blown around by the Boston wind as I singularly stand at the bus stops- that I've only recently begun frequenting. I don't know ANYONE yet, and quite frankly- probably won't ever here. When August 15 arives, I'll no doubt pack all my belongings up and disappear from here like a strange shadow that you see out of the corner of your eye.. I have trouble all of a sudden meeting people..How do people do it? I have my car here. I don't miss Pittsfield at all really, except seeing my girl and parents.