American Angle: The War Against ISIL

US-POLLITICS-OBAMA-ADDRESS

On the eve of September 11th, President Obama addressed the American people on the world’s most violent terrorist organization as a reminder to the nation that his highest priority as Commander in Chief is the security of the American people. The ISIL is an extremist jihadist organization (known for their ways in brutality and violence) that considers itself an Islamic State—one with a vehement distaste for America.

Obama was quick to discredit ISIL as an Islamic State under the logic that they are not recognized by any government or the people they subjugate, and “no religion condones the killing of innocents”. Though the U.S. has yet to detect a specific plot against the nation, the publicly broadcasted executions of American Journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff served as the kindling for what Obama described as the U.S.A’s ”broad coalition” against ISIL. The Chief explained his four-part plan:

  1. Air strikes (rather than ground attacks) against specific ISIL targets, even in Syrian and Iraqi territory.
  2. Supporting native Iraqi and Syrian resistance against ISIL.
  3. Capitalizing on counter-terrorist capabilities such as fund freezing, intelligence initiatives and a highly anticipated meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
  4. Continued humanitarian efforts towards the affected groups fighting for their homeland, such as the Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

It’s clear that the United States is prepared to lead the charge against ISIL, but the global contempt for the terror organization has also been staggering. Amongst the most vocal groups in opposition is the global Islamic community, who wishes to make clear that ISIL is “not the voice of Islam.”

Although ISIL has brought great suffering to the Levant region, we should use it as a reminder of how extremist ideology should not be broadly associated to other social groups and how every community can be affected differently.

-Alex Santos

For the full presidential address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spIWGoNZnaU

What is the difference between ISIS and ISIL?

ISIS: Islamic State of Israel and Syria

ISIL: Islamic State in Levant

The acronym ISIS specifically denotes the terrorist organization’s presence in Syria and Iraq. The acronym made popular by President Obama during Wednesday’s address, ISIL, is indicative of the same terrorist organization and their manifestation in the Levant Region. The Levant Region refers to Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Cyprus, Hatay, Turkey, Egypt, Sinai and Iraq.

Levant_(orthographic_projection)

Images from:

Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

I came across this book by chance at a bookstore several weeks ago, only due to the fact its third and final sequel had recently been released. After the first few chapters, I was hooked. Sure enough, I did not pick up another book until I had completed the trilogy in its entirety! For those of you that know me, you know that I have an addictive personality. However, my obsessive attachment to this series is as much Grossman’s responsibility as it is mine. Though coherent, Grossman presented this story in a way that satiates the modern day’s preference for honest and crude humor, all the while providing thoughtful anecdotes, sporadic characterization, and a plot that colors outside the lines of your typical fantasy epic.

 

The Magicians hit the shelves in 2009 and since then it has steadily accumulated a following that holds the main character, Quentin Coldwater, with as much reverence as his often compared counterpart—Harry Potter. From an outsider’s perspective it is easy to see why the two series and characters have been juxtaposed; they both embody the similar set-up of “young man with a catchy name gets shipped off to prestigious magic school and has magical adventures in magical lands.” Despite the glaring foundational similarities, I still find it an injustice to compare the two. The adventures of Harry Potter are for the more innocent of audiences that still need gentle, censored adventures to wrap their minds around. The adventures of Quentin Coldwater are for young mature adults who, despite their age, still long to be whisked away on a magical, gruesome, otherworldly adventure.

 

George Martin, author of the famed Game of Thrones series, presented my favorite review for the book:

The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea…Grossman’s sensibilities are thoroughly adult, his narrative dark and dangerous and full of twists. Hogwarts was never like this.”

 

If you’re interested in the book I encourage you to check out Lev Grossman’s site: http://levgrossman.com/magicians-trilogy/the-magicians-a-novel/

-Alexander Santos

Israeli-Palestinian Ceasefire after 7 Long Weeks

Map of Gaza Strip (courtesy of www.Britannica.com)

Map of Gaza Strip (courtesy of http://www.Britannica.com)

What is this Gaza Strip we have been hearing so much about?

The Gaza Strip is a small Palestinian territory smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Israel, and a small portion of Egypt. The Strip is ruled by an anti-Israeli militant group called “Hamas” whose sole mission is to resist Israel and gain more territory for Palestine. For defensive measures, Egypt and Israel closed off the majority of their borders to the Strip in 2006, which limited trade and ultimately created a deeply impoverished Palestinian state.

 

Political History

If you have examined the map shared on the right you are probably wondering, how did this tiny strip of land become trapped amongst their own sworn enemies!? Well, back in 1948, the United Nations decided that the territory formerly known as Palestine would be divided into two independent countries: Palestine and Israel. This decision didn’t sit well with certain influential Arab Leaders, who envisioned an independent and Arab Palestine; they attempted to gain more territory from the new Israeli state through military conquest. By the time the dust settled, around 1967, the Palestinians had lost a considerable amount of territory, making them worse off than before. In fact, Israel only officially pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005.

palestine%20map

What’s going on now?

So yes, there’s a lot of tension. The first hint of conflict surfaced following the disappearance of Israeli hikers around mid-June, for which the Palestinians were blamed. What happened to the hikers is still a mystery and the following weeks brought with them a blur of heated investigations, accusations, and eventually (unfortunately) bombings. Who threw the first punch, or deployed the first bomb, isn’t really relevant anymore–this conflict has resulted in casualties on both sides of the border. The stakes and levels of aggression are steadily rising._MIDEAST-GAZA_112

Thankfully, a few days ago, Palestinian and Israeli leaders declared an open-ended cease-fire. After seven weeks of fighting and over 2,200 lives lost, this comes as a relief to those directly affected by the conflict and also for those all around the world who have watched, grimacing from a distance. Though both sides managed to agree to a ceasefire, these begrudging neighbors have had numerous impermanent ceasefires before, posing the question: will Palestine and Israel ever be able to live in peace together?

What do you think?! Comment below and share your thoughts!

_MIDEAST-GAZA_126

 

 

           -Alexander Santos

 

 

 

 

References and Photo Credit:

http://www.independent.ie/world-news/middle-east/both-sides-declare-gaza-war-victory-30542923.html

http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/11/21/9-questions-about-israel-gaza-you-were-too-embarrassed-to-ask/

http://www.australiansforpalestine.net/

Throwback Thursday: Institutionalized Racism Unnoticed

The world of fashion and beauty is incredibly tough and biased – cutthroat and highly opinionated. Models seem to conform to a strict set of guidelines that are set by the industry; rarely do outsiders make it big. From their often-unrealistic notions of what the ideal body type is, it is not difficult to see that the industry is in serious need of expanding their vision.

Roughly 20% of models are women of color. For this, designers should be also held accountable, as they choose who models their shows. According to Annie Walshaw, a model booker, designers have a certain ‘look’ in mind when they hire models. The implications of this are disconcerting: white models are considered dainty and pretty, whilst darker models are exotic and ‘edgy’ (only able to pull of certain looks – most likely tribal). It seems hard to believe that this still occurs today.

Instead of highlighting these issues, however, the media, and Hollywood, only seem to play into the beauty industry’s hands. Very rarely do we even see a leading lady of color.

That is why when Lupita Nyong’o – though not playing a leading lady – emerged, many were overjoyed to find that the media immediately fell in love with the girl-who-seems-to-do-no-wrong. An amazing actress (her performance in 12 years a Slave proving it), smart, and statuesque, it’s no mystery why they did. Lupita Nyong’o, a grounded and elegant lady, who is able to pull off any designer’s look, certainly has a wonderful way with words.

The most impressing thing about her – more so than her Oscar – has to be her acceptance speech for Best Breakthrough Performance at the Essence Magazine awards. Instead of launching into a typical acceptance speech, she spoke about her experience with beauty, being dark-skinned, in response to a letter she received from a young girl.

The beauty industry is not accommodating to those of a darker skin tone, with many companies encouraging the idea that ‘lighter is better’. Few makeup and skin companies even have a decent selection of products for dark skin. Instead, they advertise harmful skin-bleaching products. This in itself is refined racism; together with the media, they collectively brainwash people into thinking that they need to look a certain way – that it’s the only way to be beautiful and appreciated.

However, her message was an even deeper one, one that undermines a lot of what the beauty industry has to say:

“What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul… And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation for your beauty, but also get to the deeper business of feeling beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.”

People come in all colors and sizes, and the beauty sector needs to wake up and realize that they need to become representative. Color is not ugly, but rather, it is marvelously beautiful.

Throwback Thursday: Institutionalized Racism Unnoticed

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPCkfARH2eE

The world of fashion and beauty is incredibly tough and biased – cutthroat and highly opinionated. Models seem to conform to a strict set of guidelines that are set by the industry; rarely do outsiders make it big. From their often-unrealistic notions of what the ideal body type is, it is not difficult to see that the industry is in serious need of expanding their vision.

Roughly 20% of models are women of color. For this, designers should be also held accountable, as they choose who models their shows. According to Annie Walshaw, a model booker, designers have a certain ‘look’ in mind when they hire models. The implications of this are disconcerting: white models are considered dainty and pretty, whilst darker models are exotic and ‘edgy’ (only able to pull of certain looks – most likely tribal). It seems hard to believe that this still occurs today.

Instead of highlighting these issues, however, the media, and Hollywood, only seem to play into the beauty industry’s hands. Very rarely do we even see a leading lady of color.

That is why when Lupita Nyong’o – though not playing a leading lady – emerged, many were overjoyed to find that the media immediately fell in love with the girl-who-seems-to-do-no-wrong. An amazing actress (her performance in 12 years a Slave proving it), smart, and statuesque, it’s no mystery why they did. Lupita Nyong’o, a grounded and elegant lady, who is able to pull off any designer’s look, certainly has a wonderful way with words.

The most impressing thing about her – more so than her Oscar – has to be her acceptance speech for Best Breakthrough Performance at the Essence Magazine awards. Instead of launching into a typical acceptance speech, she spoke about her experience with beauty, being dark-skinned, in response to a letter she received from a young girl.

The beauty industry is not accommodating to those of a darker skin tone, with many companies encouraging the idea that ‘lighter is better’. Few makeup and skin companies even have a decent selection of products for dark skin. Instead, they advertise harmful skin-bleaching products. This in itself is refined racism; together with the media, they collectively brainwash people into thinking that they need to look a certain way – that it’s the only way to be beautiful and appreciated.

However, her message was an even deeper one, one that undermines a lot of what the beauty industry has to say:

“What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul… And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation for your beauty, but also get to the deeper business of feeling beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.”

People come in all colors and sizes, and the beauty sector needs to wake up and realize that they need to become representative. Color is not ugly, but rather, it is marvelously beautiful.

2014 West Africa Ebola Outbreak

The media has done its job in informing the general U.S. public that there is an Ebola epidemic going on in West Africa, but few know much about this actual disease or how one could help. Here is the bigger picture:

This actually is not our first rodeo; Ebola made its first recorded appearance in Sudan and Conga circa 1976. The mortality rate back then for this contagion could be as high as 88%. Luckily, today, the typical mortality rate has dipped to 47%. This significant improvement is most likely due to the nature of Ebola’s transmission. Ebola is spread through direct contact (i.e. through broken skin or membranous tissues) with contaminated fluids such as blood, and a variety of bodily secretions of humans or animals. Since the 70’s, it has become mandated amongst medical professionals to enforce prevention techniques to lessen the chances of spreading diseases such as Ebola. Right now, this particular practice is especially important because nearly every case in the 2014 outbreak was a result of human-to-human transmission.

Ebola symptomology is depicted by sudden sore throat, fever, muscle pain, headache and weakness. These earlier symptoms are often followed by impaired organ function, diarrhea, vomiting, and in some cases internal and external bleeding. Most people will “incubate” the virus in 2-21 hours, after which time he or she will begin experiencing symptoms. An interesting attribute to the virus is that those infected will remain contagious until no trace of the virus remains in his or her blood or secretions. Even if cured, the Ebola virus may still lay dormant and contagious in a person’s bodily fluids several months later.

This is by far the worst Ebola outbreak in history—the death toll for confirmed cases was 1528 on the 22nd of August. The world’s response to this Ebola outbreak has also made history, however, with thousands of people and multiple organizations lending hands and (in hundreds of cases) their lives, in an effort to eradicate this West African plague. Several organizations, such as UNICEF and WHO, have reached out to millions of people spreading information, soap, and support for those affected. These guys do however need support and advocacy from readers just like you, so spread the word!
If you would like to learn more about these organizations or more about the situation in general, please follow the links below:

References:
http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/guinea/
http://www.unicefusa.org/stories/west-african-ebola-outbreak-survivors-story-guinea/18197?gclid=CjwKEAjwg_afBRD3rpChlqiKt1ESJACwY6NkOADqg8Q5RlK8K9cF_0aJfd5UurKykwZkxRkLN0PryxoCkkbw_wcB
http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/en/
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/

-Alexander Santos

Back to Clark

It’s that time of year again. Your horrible farmer’s tan is somewhat less noticeable, your fingers are weak and no longer used to writing notes for hours at a time—fall semester is here. For me this will be my fifth and final year at Clark and looking back, I can’t believe I’m that grad student saying, “four years really did go by fast.” But it did, and it was great. The horrors of 25 page papers and sleepless nights all seem much less significant and in retrospect are regarded much more warmly.

This morning I was seated at the last booth in Annie’s joined by some old suitemates. We talked about nothing really for a while, but then I abruptly asked “what do you wish you had known, four years ago, when we were the incoming freshmen?” This is what we came up with:

  • In regard to the meal plan, you really don’t know what you have until it’s gone. As soon as you’re off the meal plan, you’ll start realizing how much cooking and cleaning up after yourself can be a hassle in the midst of a busy school year! Appreciate!
  • Make connections and take advantage of your professors. We have faculty members known well throughout the global academic community—get to know them!
  • Try to get off campus. Worcester has a lot to offer: hikes at Purgatory Chasm, rock climbing at Central Rock, getting a little lost in The Worcester Art Museum… (every Clark student has a discount).
  • The Sackler Science Library is a wonderful place for quiet study.
  • There are so many teams, organizations and clubs on campus…get involved!

Of course these suggestions might already be common sense to many of you already, but the point is: take advantage of what our school, and city, has to offer. I personally value my liberal arts degree because it allowed me the opportunity to explore a wide breadth of knowledge while still focusing on a career path. So remember, look up from your books every now and then, pursue even the faintest of interests, and best of luck this upcoming school year!

-Alexander Santos

A Letter to the Editor

Do you feel strongly about an issue and want to let people know what you think?

Try writing a letter to the editor.

With today’s modern Facebook posts and Twitter rants, we hardly think about sharing our opinions in a formal written way. This month, I challenge you to sit down and really think carefully about your position for or against an issue and write a letter to the editor.

Letters to the editor can be found towards the front section of a newspaper or magazine and are often one of the most read parts of those types of publications. You can use it to talk about your opinion on a certain article that previously appeared in the publication, respond to something you saw on the news, express your stance for/against an issue or simply to inform others about an issue from a different perspective (yours!). If you care deeply about something, writing a letter to the editor is a great way to raise awareness, express your opinion or even inspire action.

How can you do this? Take a look at your local newspaper or favorite magazine and see where the Letter to the Editor section is. Oftentimes, you can find information there on how to send in your own letter. If not, try searching on the paper or magazine’s website to find their personal guidelines and directions for submissions.

Remember, think carefully about what’s important to you and why, take the time to write down your thoughts, provide any evidence to back your claims (if necessary), make sure you follow all submission guidelines, and send it in. Who knows, it just might get printed!

-Danielle Strandson

Submit to the New York Times: 

http://www.nytimes.com/content/help/site/editorial/letters/letters.html

Submit to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

 http://www.telegram.com/section/letters/

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

“Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.” - Neil Gaiman

9780062255655_custom-edf574a766e8d0912ecde8211555ca96c266ae1d-s6-c30

Neil Gaiman’s latest literary sensation, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, brings his readers to Sussex, England for a tale in which the line between non-fiction and make-believe is curiously blurred.

The story begins by following an unnamed middle-aged man back to his hometown while he is on his way to a funeral. The man becomes sidetracked by the old lane he used to live on and spends the rest of the day (and the rest of the book) reminiscing about his childhood adventures with his long-lost friend, Lettie, and a small lake she adamantly named her “ocean.”

In this short novel, Gaiman captures the pure naivety of childhood and intermingles it with a timeless wisdom, compelling his readers to examine their own youthful pasts. Most importantly, he encourages his readers to remember, if only for a short moment, those distant times when anything could happen and magic was real.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the kind of tale that starts quietly and ends climactically, only allowing several conciliatory before the book’s end. Alas, my only reservation is how quickly the story ended!

However, between the lull and apex of the story, Gaiman riddles the novel with thoughtful anecdotes and haunting nostalgia that will awaken a long-lost part of yourself, thought only to exist in the past.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone from young fantasy fanatics to older non-fiction buffs. Within those 180-some pages, there is enough insight and adventure for any reader and any age.