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Y 2011 FEBRUAR
FEBRUARY 2011 1
FROM THE EDITOR
WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH
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ampus BluePrint has a new voice. Last spring we were a joint publication with Duke, operating under the Democrat student groups at both campuses. This fall we bid farewell to Duke and this spring we parted ways with the UNC Young Democrats to become our own officially recognized student organization. While we are still friends with our YD comrades, as a publication, we want to be free to disagree with their politics. If we want to be a true progressive voice at UNC, we need to have the autonomy to say, “Here’s another solution.” Our writers are encouraged to make their own arguments. Some articles may still be on “party line,” but that is now our choice. Part of our restructuring means new values. Of course we’ll still write about political and social matters, but we want to be open to culture pieces, as well. Part of our new intiative includes featuring student artists and writers. We want to eventually include literary reviews, poetry and prose. Above all, we want to focus more on the UNC and Chapel Hill / Carrboro community. At the University of the people, this is a magazine for the people. We hope you like what we’ve done with the place.
ASSAULT ON JULIAN ASSANGE STEM CELL FUNDING
Featured Artist Obama’s EPA Wall Street Secrets Giving Year-Round Student Org Spotlight Failing on Education JIA Fashion Show STAFF
sally fry editor-in-chief erin becker david gilmore saurav sethia managing editors jasmine lamb creative director tyler tran photo editor stewart boss, carey hanlin, jordan heide, troy homesley, santo jiang, zak mathews, luda shtessel, brandon wiggins, kara williams staff writers sally fry, carey hanlin, cassie mcmillan, sofia morales, tyler tran design staff anne brenneman copy editor caitlin graham, tyler tran photographers On the cover: “City” by Anwuli Chukwurah - CBP’s featured artist. See more, page 4
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Sally Fry Editor-in-Chief
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ampus BluePrint’s Spring 2011 featured artist is a first-year studio art major and chemistry minor on a pre-medicine track. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Anwuli moved to the United States when she was nine after her dad moved over five years before. At Southeast Raleigh High School, she participated in Scholastic Young Artists and won multiple awards, including a Writer's Silver Key in a regional competition out of thousands of applications for her portfolio. Her inspiration depends on the day and her mood, but Anwuli finds motivation from "every artist [and] every designer." Anwuli finds it especially enouraging to watch other people who have been successful in their own work. To see more of her work, visit www.redbubble.com/people/woolichooks.
04 FEBRUARY 2011
FEBRUARY 2011 05
By Carey Hanlin
THE WORST KIND OF RADICALISM
As familes of the Arizona shooting victims grieve, a Topeka-based church vows to protest the funerals, claiming holy retribution was behind the attack.
“God appointed this rod for your sins! God sent the shooter!” “...the Lord is punishing this evil nation for abandoning all moral imperatives...” -Phelps
n Saturday, January 8, Representative Gabrielle Giffords was rushed to the University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona, for a gunshot wound to the head. Representative Giffords had been holding a small “Congress on Your Corner” constituent meeting at a local supermarket when gunman Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on the crowd. In all, 14 were wounded and six were killed. Among the dead were John Roll, who is chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Arizona, Giffords’s community outreach director Gabriel “Gabe” Zimmerman, and Christina Taylor Green, a local nine-year-old girl, who was also granddaughter of former Major League Baseball player, Dallas Green. As news organizations and bloggers alike poured into Tucson to cover the story of the shooting, the victims’ families grieved their deaths. And as Representative Giffords struggled to recover in the hospital, the Green family struggled to cope with the loss of their child. “I can’t even put it into words. I can’t express the devastation and hurt, and how we were so robbed of our beautiful princess,” said mother Roxanna Green shortly after the incident in an interview with Fox News. But as if burying their daughter was not enough, the families of the victims lost their right to mourn in peace when a group of protesters announced plans to picket the funerals. Those protesters hailed from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. Founded and led by pastor Fred Phelps, and attended mostly by members of his large family, the Topeka-based church consists of just over seventy members, and has become infamous nationwide for their controversial protests. The title “Baptist” is a significant misnomer for the church, for although Phelps labels his congregation as such, Westboro really holds much more extreme beliefs than typical Baptist churches. In particular, it claims that God hates homosexuals, Jews, Lady Gaga, the entire country of Sweden, and even – or perhaps, especially - America itself. In a flier posted on their website “GodHatesFags.com” the incendiary church from proclaimed the shooting to be the work of God. “Shooter – 6 dead! WBC will picket their funerals!” read the flier. “God appointed this rod for your sins! God sent the shooter!” The flier,
which can still be found at the aforementioned website, claims Loughner was sent by God to avenge America for its sins, such as war, tolerance of homosexuality and legal actions taken again the church itself. They saw the murder of Judge Roll and attempted murder of Representative Giffords as Holy retribution for such legal actions. And since the murders were appointed by God, the church decided to picket the funerals – including that of nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green. But this was not the church’s first claim of a “righteous” retribution. Westboro, infamous for its anti-homosexual rhetoric, picketed five churches in 2004 – churches that Phelps believed had played a part in legitimizing same-sex marriage in Iowa. The church has also been known to protest funerals of soldiers. As Phelps said, “Our attitude toward… the war is [that] the lord is punishing this evil nation for abandoning all moral imperatives that are worth a dime.” The church has also been known to burn American flags, often wielding signs that read “God Hates America.” It does not stop there. The church also picketed Michael Jackson’s funeral and planned to picket Heath Ledger’s funeral for his involvement in Brokeback Mountain. They protested a memorial service for the Sago Mine disaster victims, claiming the accident was God’s revenge on America, and protested a local Topeka appliance store for selling Swedish vacuums, after Sweden prosecuted a pastor who was critical of homosexuality. They have also picketed Lady Gaga concerts, Coretta Scott King’s funeral, Twitter, Comic-Con, and have waged war against Judaism, Mormonism and Islam. According to “beastobama.com,” one of the church’s affiliate websites, President Barack Obama is the Antichrist, who will eventually form an “unholy trinity” with Pope Benedict XVI and Satan. “Priestsrapeboys.com,” another affiliate website, calls Benedict “The Godfather of Pedophiles, and slams Catholicism as a sect of idolatry and homosexual encouragement. Jenna Kazmaier, a UNC first year student and devoted Christian, said “It’s their choice whether to personally support homosexuality or not, but according to the Christian principles they say they believe in, it’s not
06 FEBRUARY 2011
FEBRUARY 2011 07
GOP Takes Aim at obama’s ePa
By Stewart Boss
westboro baptist church members picketing before a crowd, while police stand guard.
up to them to judge other people – that’s God’s job.” Kazmaier echoes the voices of many American Christians who may not necessarily disagree with all of Westboro’s ideologies, but who find fault with the church’s inflammatory actions and hypocrisy. But some wonder if all the protesting is rooted not in legitimate religious zeal, but rather in zeal for the ever-influential gods of fame and fortune. Why else would the church announce their protest plans weeks in advance, if not to ensure some television time? Why else would they so boldly protest such sensitive subjects, if not to dare someone to retaliate, and then sue them for huge sums of money? Indeed, the church has been known to do so. And as more and more bills are passed that stop the church from funeral protests in certain areas, Westboro members grab the chance to sue for their rights. Jasmine Jackson-Irwin, a Political Science major and member of the Chapel Hill Young Democrats, disagrees that the church members are in it solely for the money. “I truly believe that they feel a fundamental duty to avenge the word of God. What is so saddening about the situation is that they are so blinded by their own anger and righ-
teousness that they fail to see their actions as antithetical to the gospel of Christianity.” Even North Carolinians felt the wrath of Westboro when the church garnered news attention for coming to Raleigh this past December to protest the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards. Edwards, the late, estranged wife of North Carolina senator John Edwards, died of cancer early last December. The church claims Edwards to be a “resident in Hell” for her support of gay marriage. The church was, however, vastly outnumbered by counter-protesters. According to Allvoices.com, the counter-protestors helped buffer the funeral with their own signs printed with words such as “hero” and “hope.” After the Arizona shooting, similar plans were made to protect the funeral of Christina Taylor Green. The plan was to have participants wear 8-by-10 “angel wings” to shield the service from the protesters. However, those plans became unnecessary when the Arizona legislature passed an emergency bill to ban all protests within 300 feet of a funeral. While bans of this kind raise new issues about freedom of speech and right to assemble, solace can at least be taken in the fact that the Green family can now bury their daughter in peace. •
“...according to the Christian principles they say they believe in, it’s not up to them to judge other people that’s God’s job.” -Kazmaier
ith the House’s symbolic “repeal” of 2009’s health care law taken care of, the GOP is moving on to its next legislative target: the Environmental Protection Agency. In a move that shouldn’t surprise anyone, since there are now more deniers of climate science in Congress than ever before, Republicans (and some Democrats) are targeting the EPA and its ability to fully enforce the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Most significant is the EPA’s proposed guidance for regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, which began this year for power plants and petroleum refineries. The EPA’s authority over global warming pollution has been debated since a 2007 Supreme Court decision that criticized the Bush-era EPA for not acting on this issue, given that “the harms associated with climate change are serious and well-recognized.” The Free Industry Act, which is moving its way through the House, would revoke the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other pollutants by rewriting the Clean Air Act so that greenhouse gases driving global climate change could not be regulated. The new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fred Upton, R-Mich., intends to hold hearings about the impact of the EPA’s emission reduction plan on jobs. “Standing up for American workers and addressing EPA’s rampant regulations is a top priority,” Upton said. “We will be active and aggressive using every tool in the toolbox to protect American jobs and our economy by rolling back the job-destroying regulations.” This grandstanding over greenhouse gas regulations may be upstaged by ongoing disputes in central Appalachia concerning the EPA and regulation of mountaintop removal coal mining. In the wake of the EPA’s veto of Arch Coal’s Spruce No. 1 mine permit, which would have been the largest mountaintop removal mine in history, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin organized a “Rally for Coal” at the state Capitol. This is despite the fact that Arch Coal refused to work with the EPA and accept alternative plans that would have allowed roughly the same amount of coal to be mined with substantially less environmental degradation. To put the conflict between the EPA and coal-
producing states in context, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said: “Let me be clear: this is not about ending coal mining. This is about ending coal mining pollution.” As Matt Wasson, director of programs for Appalachian Voices, wrote, the EPA was actually “bending over backwards in an attempt to negotiate a settlement with the company, and … it was the company’s unwillingness to contemplate any alternative mine plans that left the agency with no choice but to veto the permit.” The reality is that the EPA is not even close to overstepping its legal limits. Many environmental groups called on the agency to enforce the Clean Water Act by cracking down on pollution from all mountaintop removal sites, not just ones where the coal industry had chosen to pick a symbolic fight and cry foul. As one blogger put it, “given the choice between throwing a hissy fit and problem solving, the smart money around here still seems to be on ‘hissy fit.’” There have been other high-profile actions by the EPA in the last two years that have drawn industry criticism. The agency has made efforts to shift to regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste, though it continues to endorse the recycling of coal ash for beneficial reuse purposes. Inadequate regulation has allowed toxic coal ash filled with mercury, selenium, and arsenic to pollute groundwater and contaminate drinking water supplies all over the country. The EPA has also issued tougher fuel economy standards for heavy vehicles and trucks that will mitigate emissions from the transportation sector. Despite the evidence that EPA is just doing its job, a return to Bush-era regulations for our environment and public health is a real risk. Through her willingness to confront the biggest industrial polluters and stick to the facts, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has become something of a national hero in the modern environmental movement. For all the praise from environmental groups, Jackson has been careful and thorough in putting together a common-sense approach for dealing with the country’s biggest environmental regulatory problems. As an editorial in the Los Angeles Times pointed out, the real question isn’t why the EPA is acting before Congress does. The question is: “Why has it taken so long?” •
08 FEBRUARY 2011
FEBRUARY 2011 09
By Jordan Heide
What founder Julian Assange fails to mention is that once the truth is out, safety can no longer be assured.
“[One way] of nurturing victims is to police perpetrators of crime.”
e help you safely get the truth out.” Boldly printed across its homepage, this proclamation summarizes the intentions of WikiLeaks, the infamous database currently under immense scrutiny for disclosing classified documents of various political institutions around the world. What founder Julian Assange fails to mention is that once the truth is out, safety can no longer be assured. WikiLeaks strives to provide a secure medium for conscientious whistle-blowers attempting to expose the corrupt actions of their respective governments and corporations. The database contains over 1.5 million documents from numerous world powers, including France, Iran, Australia, Germany and Britain. “We are of assistance to peoples of all countries who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and institutions. We aim for maximum political impact,” the site states. The potential of WikiLeaks was realized when Private First Class Bradley Manning of the United States Army submitted videos of air strikes conducted in Baghdad and Granai, along with 260,000 other diplomatic cables. The apathetic disposition of the pilots responsible for the air strikes shocked Americans and international citizens alike. The air strike in Baghdad (referred to by WikiLeaks as the “Collateral Murder”) resulted in the death of 18 unarmed civilians. The diplomatic cables revealed egregious atrocities committed by the U.S. government, including but not limited to the coaxing of foreign allies to house Guantanamo prisoners, American diplomats’ unorthodox involvement in the sale of jetliners on the global market, and the United States’ par-
ticipation in an international conspiracy to ignore Cuba’s countless human rights violations. Most notorious was the revelation that the U.S. Army had disregarded claims of torture made by Iraqi authorities. Yet while the content of these cables has evoked outrage, much attention has been devoted to the legality of the leaks. Assange and Manning have been criticized for exposing the corruption of imperious governments and threatening national security. Manning has even been detained by the U.S. Army and could face up to 52 years in prison simply for releasing classified information. Assange currently resides in London, attempting to dodge extradition to Sweden for charges against him regarding sexual misconduct (accusations which Assange vehemently denies.) In an interview with TED’s Chris Anderson, Assange defended WikiLeaks, saying that “capable, generous men do not create victims; they nurture victims. [One way] of nurturing victims is to police perpetrators of crime.” Despite any noble intentions, Assange has been demonized in the media. The New York Times described him as “the flamboyant founder of WikiLeaks,” including in its description the irrelevant fact that Assange currently resides on “a supporter’s 600acre estate outside London where he has negotiated $1.7 million in book deals and regularly issues defiant statements about the anti-secrecy group’s plans.” Since Assange’s leap to fame, the media has captured his every move. Yet in attempts to achieve neutrality and present a candid portrayal of Assange, news outlets have unnecessarily attacked aspects of Assange’s character that have no bearing on his role in the WikiLeaks scandal. Assange
has been criticized by multiple sources for possessing a cavalier, arrogant demeanor, exaggerated to such an extent that one would be inclined to believe that Assange is as menacing as an insolent dictator. Even descriptions of Assange’s appearance assume a disapproving tone. Here’s a quote from the Times’ Sunday magazine: “He’s tall — probably 6-foot-2 or 6-3 — and lanky, with pale skin, gray eyes and a shock of white hair that seizes your attention. He was alert but disheveled, like a bag lady walking in off the street, wearing a dingy, light-colored sport coat and cargo pants, dirty white shirt, beat-up sneakers and filthy white socks that collapsed around his ankles. He smelled as if he hadn’t bathed in days.” The New York Times has made little effort to disguise its contempt for Assange, illustrating him as “smart and well educated, extremely adept technologically but arrogant, thin-skinned, conspiratorial and oddly credulous.” Although acknowledging of Assange’s technical brilliance, the New York Times abrasively labels him as “conspiratorial and oddly credulous,” insinuating that he is both manipulative and perhaps a bit ignorant. Yet the Times fails to provide evidence supporting these claims or establish a connection between Assange’s boastful personality and the legitimacy of the WikiLeaks documents. Negative comments regarding Assange’s disposition are simply the perception of the reporter and are not rooted in fact. No observations on Assange’s character have been substantiated or directly connected to the work of WikiLeaks. Bill Keller, New York Times columnist and author of “Open Secrets: WikiLeaks, War and American Diplomacy: Complete and
Expanded Coverage from The New York Times,” claimed that Assange behaved “like a fugitive, changing crash pads, e-mail addresses and cellphones frequently” during their many lucrative meetings prior to the release of the data that Pfc. Manning submitted. Keller even resorted to pejoratively describing Assange as an “office geek” when Assange offered up his technical savvy to Keller and a few fellow reporters who were attempting to dissect the WikiLeaks database. Keller provides no reason to distrust Assange other than the fact that he simply feels uneasy around the “notorious hacker.” Perhaps some of these claims are true. Perhaps Assange is audacious and practices poor hygiene. Perhaps he does behave in a paranoid and erratic manner. But if the authenticity of his information is verifiable, what relevance do any of these accusations have? The concern of the media should be solely on the veracity of the documents published by WikiLeaks, not on the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the site’s creator. The fact that Mark Zuckerberg may have committed intellectual property theft when he created Facebook doesn’t make his website any less useful or pervasive in today’s society. The same logic applies to Assange and WikiLeaks. As long as the site’s information is truthful and accurate, Assange’s “dingy, light-colored sport coat” and “beatup sneakers” do not affect the authenticity of the leaks and have no business dominating the media’s coverage of WikiLeaks. News outlets need to refrain from employing sensationalist tactics and rely solely and unequivocally on the facts. •
One would be inclined to believe that Assange is as menacing as an insolent dictator.
10 FEBRUARY 2011
FEBRUARY 2011 11
By Luda Shtessel
Photo from wikimedia commons
Political, not religious, barriers inform embryonic stem cell research funding
When “embryos” are listed as the third plaintiff in a case, the lack of formality implied, unfortunately, does not match the gravity of the situation.
overnment funding for embryonic stem cell research is once again under debate, but this time, surprisingly, it is political and not doctrinal ambiguity that is driving the fight. Traditionally, embryonic stem cell research has garnered criticism for the unavoidable destruction of embryos that accompanies the development of new embryonic stem cell lines. However, most recently, ESC research has been threatened by a lawsuit brought on by members of the scientific community using legislation, specifically the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, to halt all federal funding for this research. Semantics, of course, is at the center of the debate. Human embryonic stem cells are unique in their ability to give rise to all the tissues of the human body. When a developing embryo reaches about 150 cells, some cells are carefully removed and cultured under specific conditions that can give rise to human embryonic stem cells. In 1998, a group of researchers at the University of Wisconsin created the first human embryonic stem cell line, where cells continued to grow in a petri dish in an undeveloped and immortal state. Other researchers work with nonembryo-derived stem cells, such as adult stem cells, which can grow much longer than fully developed cells but can only mature into the tissues from which they were taken. Most embryos used for stem cell research are procured from in vitro fertilization clinics, where some that go unused are donated consciously and willingly to science. Under these circumstances, fertilized embryos are not forcibly created for scientific manipulation since IVF participants undergo embryonic fertilization on their own terms for reproductive purposes. Embryos that don’t get implanted or used for research face prolonged storage or disposal. Conservative groups reject government funding for research that involves the destruction of these unwanted embryos. On August 9, 2001, as a compromise between our country’s conservative moralism and the pursuit of innovation, discovery and health, George W. Bush ordered that federal funding could only be used for research on embryonic stem cell lines that had already been established prior to his announcement. Because the establishment of new ESC lines requires the destruction of fertil-
ized embryos, federal funds would no longer be allocated for such tasks, prompting concern from the scientific community. Under Bush’s executive order, 78 pre-existing ESC lines, which were past the initial stage of ICM removal but not necessarily fully developed, qualified for federal funding. Unfortunately, only 21 of these lines were successfully cultured into full-fledged immortal, pluripotent embryonic stem cells. For a result to be convincing or credible, scientists often repeat experiments under different conditions to rebuff any results that may have come about coincidentally. Therefore, any results acquired using one stem cell line would necessitate replication with several others. A cap on the number of ESC lines available threatened the ability of scientists to replicate their results, begetting the concern about the integrity of scientific research. A more tangible concern was the use of space and resources that would have to be kept separate in labs that decided to continue to perform research with cell lines derived after August 9. Tubes, solutions, petri dishes—any supplies that are necessary for cell culture—would have to be purchased twice, once with federal funds for existing cells lines and once with private funds for new cell lines. This posed a daunting task, since there is barely enough room for one set of research materials in most laboratories. (Perhaps the graduate students were relegated to coat closets to make room for the inevitable redundancy.) Almost a decade later, the hopes of the scientific community hung on Obama’s presidency, and he certainly delivered. On March 9, 2009, the President rescinded Bush’s restrictions on stem cell research. His executive order outlined a federal imperative to “support and conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, to the extent permitted by law.” Obama might have re-introduced federal funding for newly-derived ESCs and put “an end to an administrative nightmare that had seen [scientists] set up separate lab space and equipment to ensure that federal dollars are not inadvertently used for research on non-authorized cells,” Peter Aldhous of NewScientist explains, but Obama also left the funding of embryonic stem cell line creation to private sources.
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FEBRUARY 2011 13
STEM CELL, CONT.
What is so agonizing and difficult to understand is why the government resorted to ambiguity in such an important piece of legislation.
Obama’s executive order, “to the extent permitted by law,” might as well have read “to the extent permitted by the Dickey-Wicker Amendment”. The Dickey-Wicker Amendment, passed in 1996 and renewed yearly since then, dictates that federal funds may not be used for research “in which human embryos are created, destroyed, discarded or subjected to risk of injury or death”. For the last 14 years, this amendment has been interpreted to mean that the federal government can fund research on (already perished) embryos but not contribute directly to their destruction, allowing for embryonic stem cell research to benefit from National Institute of Health funding. On August 19, 2010, Drs. James Sherley and Theresa Deisher brought a suit against the Department of Health and Human Services demanding an injunction on federal funding of human ESC research on the basis that the “Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research are contrary to law.” Several things about this lawsuit are concerning. The first, the “competitor standing doctrine”, requires the plaintiffs to prove that they would benefit from the ruling and would otherwise be irreparably hurt. This doctrine directly opposes the conflict-ofinterest declaration all researchers have to sign when they submit results for publication. These researchers are definitely going to benefit. Drs. Sherley and Deisher perform research using adult stem cells, cells that are not derived from embryos and lack some of the pluripotency associated with ESCs. They claimed that Obama’s open policy on federal funding for all ESC research would compromise their chances of acquiring federal funds for their own research. But isn’t that how competition works? Federal funding is supposed to be competitive. It is true that plaintiffs must show a personal investment to legally proceed. But as scientists, they have been taught that it’s morally wrong to advocate for self-promoting results. If that isn’t baffling enough, the list of other plaintiffs mentioned in the suit is enough to think this is a big joke. When “embryos” are listed as the third plaintiff in a case, the lack of
formality implied, unfortunately, does not match the gravity of the situation. On August 23, 2010, Judge Lamberth, a U.S. District Court judge, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The injunction accepts the defendants’ claim that “the term ‘research’ [in the Dickey-Wicker Amendment] is ambiguous”. Specifically, the prohibition imposed by the Dickey-Wicker Amendment “encompasses all ‘research in which’ an embryo is destroyed, not just the ‘piece of research’ in which the embryo is destroyed.” Basically, the judge agreed with the plaintiffs’ interpretation of the Amendment, proclaiming that “ESC research is [unambiguously] research in which an embryo is destroyed.” It’s hard not to agree with this interpretation. For example, “going for a run” includes not only the actual “running” part but also the “putting on tennis shoes” routine and the “walking out of the door” bit, both of which are unavoidable. What is so agonizing and difficult to understand is why the government resorted to ambiguity in such an important piece of legislation. On September 9, 2010 the federal government fired back, requesting a “motion to stay preliminary injunction pending appeal”, which would allow the NIH to continue funding ESC research throughout the appeals process. The motion states that the NIH “has consistently interpreted the Amendment to prohibit federal funding of the derivation of a stem cell line.” There is that word: interpreted. The federal government’s only defense is that its interpretation of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment has been consistent since the Amendment’s inception 14 years ago, so the language must be clear and unambiguous in its intent. That kind of logic is sloppy and troublesome if it leaves opportunity for legal recourse by a greedy third party. It’s obvious that the U.S. is committed to promoting research that may further our understanding of human disease. Specifically, the federal government has unwaveringly promoted human embryonic stem cell research. So why not stop all the interpretation and start writing forthright legislation? •
raud is a dirty word on Wall Street. Yet it plays a role in the economic downturn of 2008. The effects of the Global Financial Crisis, specifically the recession in the United States, are still having a dramatic influence on the relatively high unemployment rates and widespread financial distress among American society. While a large proportion of Americans have been making hard decisions about their finances, some people, particularly investment bankers, have actually benefited from this borrowing. So how exactly did Wall Street investors earn their money during the economic downfall? First, fraud at investment companies is a problem that is largely kept an insider secret. How does this happen? Put simply, the kind of regulations that are applied to just about every other industry and sector do not apply to America’s investment corporations. This means that the Federal Reserve does not have the power to regulate private investment firms. This is why regular banking is regulated but investment banking is not. This has enabled reckless lending in the form of “Liar’s Loans” – loans that enable people to borrow huge amounts of cash with little proof that they can pay it back. Second, some of Bush’s financial regulators are still in charge under President Obama, and the conservative idea that “markets cleanse themselves” remains the dominant ideology. This results in a continued lack of regulation in the financial sector. These Wall Street investors are able to make and keep their money in the form of salaries, investments, fraud and calculated tax evasion, which clearly points to a structural and systemic problem: that this is an industry, a long-standing institution, that is barely being constrained by government regulation at all. Even business schools have been called “fraud factories” for the way they teach financial methods that will keep the rich, rich and make the poor, poorer. So the cycle goes on and those who control the money in such an unregulated manner have a growing capacity to control the economy
of the country. The ruling class in the U.S. is perhaps not the ruling political party, but whoever controls the money. If we view wealth as an individual’s or group’s marketable assets, then according to G. William Domhoff, a research professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, 0.05 percent of America’s elite possess and control 20-25 percent (but maybe even more) of U.S. finances . This extremely unequal distribution of wealth is reinforced by institutions such as investment banks who may accumulate their wealth by fraud and unregulated markets within which they can take huge financial risks with few consequences. Surely if these investors take such risks, taxpayers should not have to bear the burden when such risks go awry (Goldman Sachs is a looming example of this problem.) The loopholes that enabled these financial firms to take irresponsible risks must be closed and consumer protections instigated. So what needs to happen? Four words: common sense financial reform. The financial industry needs to stop benefiting from consumers. The “special” rules and exceptions for some (i.e. the elite) should be abolished and more equitable regulations put in place to discourage fraud. The Democrats have proposed reforms that will increasingly protect the financial system and overall economy, encourage transparency in the open market (so that the closed doors of investment corporations are flung open), provide consumers with stronger financial protections and give shareholders new power in financial system (for example a “say on the pay” of CEOs). If implemented effectively, these proposed reforms could begin to shape America’s financial sector in a more positive way. As the United States continues to add to its debt, perhaps it is time to question who exactly should be paying for the mistakes of top investing directors – us or everyone else? When even our president is saying that “there is no dividing line between Main Street and Wall Street,” surely financial reform should be up there with the top priorities of this nation. •
By Kara Williams
The ruling class in America is perhaps not the ruling political party, but whoever controls the money. FEBRUARY 2011 15
14 FEBRUARY 2011
By Zak Mathews
SPOTLIGHT students helPing honduras
By Brandon Wiggins
When friends and family asked me what I wanted this Christmas, I thought about it and realized there was absolutely nothing.
t has been a couple months since the holidays. What’s happened to your gifts? That little trinket you asked your parents for isn’t quite as useful as you thought it was going to be. That meal you ate with your restaurant gift card sure was tasty, but it’s not helping with your New Year’s Resolution to get back into shape. And that sweater your grandma gave you has slowly worked its way to the bottom of the clothes stack because, let’s face it, Grandma is still living in 1950, bless her heart. We’ve all had those Christmas gifts where you smile and say “thank you” while wondering if anyone would ever actually want the gift you just received. Let me tell you what I received for Christmas this year. I got a goat and some water. Everything on my Christmas list! My gifts were given by Heifer International and Water.org, just two of many great organizations helping with charitable giving. When friends and family asked me what I wanted this Christmas, I thought about it and realized there was absolutely nothing. One Friday night while flipping around for something to watch, I came upon an episode of ABC’s 20/20 featuring a laundry list of the world’s problems and some ways to help. During the show, I realized what I wanted for Christmas. I wanted to give my gift to someone in need. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great Christmas gifts, but giving up just one of many could actually save lives. For example, Water.org can provide a lifetime supply of water for one person for just $25. This is critical, as approximately one in eight people lack safe water, and 3.5 million people die from water-related diseases each year. Heifer International provides both animals and training to communities in need around the world while promoting sustainability. They teach the recipients to harvest resources like milk or wool from animals without killing them. These are just two of many wonderful organizations. There are more traditional charities like the Red Cross that do great work here in the U.S. and abroad. The Central Asia Institute provides education to remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan which in turn helps to bring a greater level of peace to those areas. Many public fig-
ures have formed their own organizations, including the Clinton Foundation, which has aided Haiti’s disaster recovery efforts, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on health. Want a more local option? There are plenty of deserving charities right here in Orange County. For example, the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service provides a variety of services to the poor including providing the area’s food kitchen. Habitat for Humanity uses a hands-on approach to provide affordable housing. If you don’t have any money to give, why not spend a weekend with your family and volunteer your time by helping serve food or build a house? You’re asking: why didn’t you tell me about this in December? But a better question is, why not keep the giving season alive throughout the year? There are obvious gift-giving occasions like birthdays where you could ask your friends to give your gift to charity. Ask your parents if they would rather have a charitable donation made in their name for Mother’s or Father’s Day rather than the clutter they are used to getting. Or better yet, why not give on a daily basis? Set aside a dollar from every pay check or spend a free weekend helping out at the charity of your choice. There are many easy and affordable ways to give back. No matter the organization or form of help, consider giving your gift to a charity. I’ve listed some of my favorite organizations, but take a few minutes to find one that interests you. We all have different passions, so why not find an organization tailored to your interests? Just be sure that you give your time and money to a reputable organization. You can ask for a company’s financial statements to be sure that the money is going to where they say it is and not being used for advertising or administrative overhead. You can also look to see if a reliable news organization has profiled your organization. With a little homework, and a lot of love, we can all make a difference. Oh, and for those of you wondering what to get me for my birthday later this month, I would like a flock of chickens, or maybe just a tall glass of water. •
tudents Helping Honduras is an organization dedicated to building “a movement of young leaders to empower orphaned and vulnerable children in Honduras.” The organization was founded by Shin Fujiyama when he was still a student at Mary Washington. Since then, the organization has spread to nearly 100 schools on the East coast.
WHAT SHH DOES: The organization holds fundraisers on campus throughout the school year to raise money, which is used to sponsor service trips to Honduras during the summer, winter, and the spring. In the past, volunteers have aided in the construction of schools and worked to develop a positive relationship with the local villagers. The service projects allow volunteers to make a substantial, lasting impact on the Honduran community.
National Website: http://www.studentshelpinghonduras.org UNC Website: http://www.studentshelpinghonduras.org/unc
GET INvOLvED: SHH
holds fundraisers throughout the year and is always eager for more volunteers. Even if you can’t get involved in the club’s local fundraisers, you can still sign up to go on any of the volunteer trips to Honduras. Students who wish for more information can visit either the national organization website or the UNC chapter website.
siete de abril elementary. in 2006, shh built a one classroom elementary school at siete de abril that is currently enrolling nearly 100 children.
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Photo by students helPing honduras
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By Troy Homesley
he American Dream invokes emotions of hope, success, class mobility, equality and freedom. Could our present educational system be holding us back from realizing these dreams and our nation’s potential? For the last four decades, scholars and politicians have been trying to devise solutions to our nation’s growing educational shortcomings. In January, President Obama tackled the issue in his State of the Union Address. Obama stated that he hopes that giving students the best possible chance at an adequate education and raising expectations will help America recover from its current slump. This slump refers to the U.S. ranking 9th in the world in proportion of college graduates to overall population. Obama said in his address, "We measure progress by the success of our people....By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children." But are these opportunities really provided in a fair manner? Like many policy issues, it all begins with money. The Gini coefficient, which measures inequality of income, reveals a steadily widening economic gap in America. With each generation there is a lesser chance that a U.S. citizen will move up one quartile from his or her parents’ income bracket. Education plays a critical role in reversing these trends. Jonathan Kozol characterized our educational disparities frankly in his expository novel on the subject entitled Savage Inequalities. It turns out that his description was accurate. Neighborhood Schools Part of the money problems that contribute to the education gap is the property tax dilemma in school districts that support neighborhood schools. Property taxes generate more money in more affluent neighborhoods, which leads to higher revenue for schools in those areas. In lowerincome neighborhoods, property taxes do
How our nation’s education system is failing us
not generate as much revenue. As a result, the quality of education in these low-income neighborhoods suffers. The facilities and resources available in these schools are commonly aged and inferior. Schools in lower income areas are more prone to violence and apathy, which in turn foster a hostile learning environment. The property tax dilemma results in a system where the poor cannot obtain the opportunities that the rich are born into. This system does not promote democratic values, nor does it bolster those in our society who need the most help and support. Under these circumstances, equal opportunity in education is a myth. Early Education There is evidence that education gap begins startlingly early as increased chances for learning come to the most privileged and wealthiest even before children enter kindergarten. A long-term study conducted in Chapel Hill revealed that early professional childcare has a large effect on later success. The Carolina Abecedarian Project found that, "the importance of high quality, educational childcare from early infancy is now clear. The Abecedarian project provides scientific evidence that early childhood education significantly improves the scholastic success and educational attainments of poor children even into early adulthood." These findings indicate the need for policy reform. From an early age, children are divided into two groups based on the socioeconomic status of their parents. A statesubsidized childcare system would help solve this problem and also the problem of unaffordable childcare. This system has already proved successful in Sweden, Denmark and France. The U.S. has made attempts at this type of system with the Head Start program, which is a comprehensive pre-school educational
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Photo by caitlin graham
Under these circumstances, equal opportunity in education is a myth.
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program provided for low-income children and their families. However, this program is not nearly as far-reaching and inclusive as those of the European countries which have taken this initiative. Charter Schools Yet another obstacle to equality in education lies in a relatively new institution: the charter school. In recent years, charter and private schools have become increasingly popular. Mirroring the "white flight" of white Americans fleeing to suburban areas in the 60s, there is a "class flight" to charter and private schools. This movement steals talent from public schools and lessens the socioeconomic diversity of their school systems. By law, the maximum number of charter schools in North Carolina is 100. However, the new Republican legislative majority plans, as one of their first acts, to eliminate this cap. Such a decision could lead to further inequalities. According to Tyler Whittenberg, a guest columnist for The Herald-Sun, "many charter schools have lower percentages of minority, special needs and economically disadvantaged students than traditional schools within the district." Because charter schools have less regulation than public schools, they are not re-
quired to have special needs teachers, or teachers for at-risk students. Instead, they only need to cater to top students. This saves them money and forces the most atrisk youth back into public schools, where funds are diminishing. Each time a child switches to a charter school, the tax dollars that otherwise would go to that child's public school are re-routed to the charter school in the form of a voucher. Because of this, charter schools also cause a drop in public school funding. With more charter schools, it is clear that inequality in education will become more common. Some argue that private and charter schools create competition for public schools and will therefore lead to better public school systems. This may sound good on paper, but in reality it leads to elitist schools with low diversity, hidden agendas and alternative teaching that ignores standard curriculum. There’s also an issue of constitutionality. Some charter schools are religiously affiliated. Not only do charter schools pose a challenge to educational equality, they also challenge our First Amendment, since religious charter schools are funded by American tax dollars.
2000 CENSUS DATA local district sPending
U.S. INCOME INEqUALITY family gini coefficient
the higher the gini coefficient, the higher inequality
Here at Home Locally, one can see examples of school inequality across districts differing in demographics. The three main school districts around Chapel Hill are Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Durham County Schools and Orange County Schools. Durham and Orange County Schools receive all of their funding from the state, while Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools receive state funding as well as revenue from a separate tax for Chapel Hill residents. When one considers spending per student in these school districts, striking disparities can be seen. The above table was compiled with information from the National Center for Education Statistics website. The spending per child was figured by dividing total revenue by number of students in each school district. The differences are clear. Suburban Chapel Hill City Schools spend more than $1500 more per child than those in the inner-city Durham School district. Orange County schools spend over $3000 more per student than Durham County schools. The inconsistencies between these suburban and urban school districts attest to the education gap. There are large inequalities in education, education spending, and education quality depending on geographic location, neighborhood and socioeconomic status. Bridging the Gap The problems are daunting, but there are many solutions. First, there must be education reform beginning at the most basic level. This means making childcare widely affordable and equal for all income levels. Second, there must be attempts to ensure that if we choose to allow the 'flight' to private and charter schools that there be
YEAR source: u.s. census bureau, current Population survey, annual social and economic supplements.
equal access to these schools for all ethnicities and classes. This is an imperative part of preserving the democratic values behind free public education in America. It is also important that there be specific policies and rules for regulating charter schools. In North Carolina, some charters are granted every 10 years, and they only need to be reviewed every five years. Policies like these must be improved in the quest for charter school accountability. Third, there must be a concerted attempt by both policy-makers and citizens to find an equilibrium where quality of education is not affected by geographic or socioeconomic location. There should be no difference between the quality of education based on the general prosperity of a given neighborhood or town. Another way to restore equality is through the use of technology. By providing all students with the resources to which other students already have access, a large part of the learning gap can be erased. This is the mind set at Mooresville Graded School District in Mooresville, NC. Each student at MGSD was supplied with a laptop in 2008 as part of a one-to-one initiative. The laptops were provided to all students for a small insurance fee. In the last two years, MGSD has made massive strides in education, and is quickly becoming one of the most successful public school districts in the state. Using equalizing initiatives like these will help our nation combat the gaps between education and ignorance and rich and poor. Equal opportunity is a central part of our democracy. But we clearly have extreme disparities in our public education system today. These are savage inequalities that no child should have to endure and no firstworld nation should sustain. •
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NAME sayoko sueyoshi YEAR first-year MAJOR biology
Born in Japan, Sayoko first heard of this show from her close friend and already had experience from high school. Also, she has deep interest in design and is the co-founder and manager of S4StyleX, a T-shirt design team.
NAME ashley mui YEAR junior MAJOR environmental science
An American-born Chinese, Ashley played the traditional China role in the fashion show. Her favorite television show is America’s Next Top Model and this is one of the main reasons that she participated in the show.
By Santo Jiang
he Asian Student Association (ASA) held its annual Journey Into Asia show in Memorial Hall on January 22. Inspired by the Confucius quote, “Study the past if you would define future,” they picked “Reflection” for this year’s theme. The show combined both traditional and modern elements, highlighting the sub-cultural groups of Asia. According to the first-year representative Jihoon Baek, the JIA show was primarily established to employ the talents and resources within the Asian-American community to foster cultural awareness. However, more elements were added this year, the most prominent being an affiliation with R.E.A.C.H. (Relying Empowerment-Anything Can Happen), a tri-campus charity project founded by a group of students from NCSU, Duke, and UNC in 2008. R.E.A.C.H. strives to empower unprivileged communities across the globe by providing educational facilities and has already built its first school in Guangxi, China. R.E.A.C.H. also collaborates with China Tomorrow Education Foundation. By promoting the R.E.A.C.H. project through the show and donating the proceeds to R.E.A.C.H., ASA has shown its commitment to global awareness.
Another interesting aspect, as noticed by Dr. Robin Visser, the faculty advisor of the show and associate professor in Asian Studies, is the reduced anxiety of Asian-Americans. She said that through creative performances, there is less anxiety concerning identity and cultural difference. Visser described the jokes made about Asians as being “healthy and refreshing.” Referring to a recent talk between Visser and the Asian American Parent Association, she felt that the typical Asian complex of inferiority has gone and that the young generation is opening up a new era. She has also witnessed a “power shift” as an increasing number of Asians is getting involved with the local community by holding leadership positions in student organizations. Over the past few years, UNC students have demonstrated their commitment to bringing positive change to the world. We have Dream Corps which is dedicated to promoting reading education in China; we have service programs in various parts of the globe providing health care, education and infrastructure construction; we also have individual students who are devoted to impacting the world in a positive way. Visser appreciates this “power shift” as it diversifies the community and is glad to see UNC’s leading position in the transition. •
NAME rita PhetmiXay YEAR soPhomore MAJOR international studies and communication studies
Rita is Thai-Laotian and acted as a traditional Thai in the show. She joined the show to promote ethnic and cultural awareness in appreciation of the diversity of the Asian-American community. As an international studies and communication studies double major, she wished to enhance her knowledge, skills, and experience through this show.
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this publication was paid for at least in part by unc student fees
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