> New York Times Multimedia Look at Syria
> New York Times: Experts Fear Strikes Overlook Risks
> Huffington Post Syrian News Feed
In 2011, locals took to the streets of the city of Deraa after 15 school-aged children were arrested and tortured for spray painting anti-government graffiti on a public wall. Non-violent protests in the beginning turned violent after the Syrian army opened fire on the protesters, killing four innocent people. The next day, the army opened fire again on the mourners at the four victim's funerals, killing another innocent citizen. As news of this spread throughout the country, unrest followed as people became outraged at their government's capacity for senseless violence.
The protesters who took to the streets in increasing numbers all throughout Syria simply wanted democracy and freedom of speech. They had had enough of the government's practice of ruling with an iron fist. Several reports of suspected intentional internet outages popped up all over the country after protests and during President Assad's public address. Control of this sort was made possible by the many people who still supported Assad and his party.
As the protesting grew to huge numbers, it is suspected that Assad and his cronies took 3 days or so to put together nerve agents for a chemical attack on the protesters in the city of Damascus. When they (supposedly) launched the attack on August 21, 2013, 1,429 men, women, and children were killed. Syrian citizens began fleeing the country to neighboring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. The United Nations reported that upwards of two million citizens had become refugees, and nearly one million of them were children. Millions more have been displaced by the fighting within Syria, and have no means of securing help.
Regular citizens have formed a rogue army, and are too busy fighting to help their fellow citizens who are without food, water, and shelter. The United Nations can not come to an agreement on how to help the citizen army fight the government army. If they send weapons, the weapons shipment may be intercepted by the government. If they launch an air attack, they risk killing more innocent people. Another issue here is that Putin, the Russian president, has close ties to President Assad's government having supplied them with artillery, so Russia does not support the UN going through with air strikes.
Initially, France and the UK were in support of the US air strikes, but the UK has since pulled out of that agreement. It is feared that the disagreement between countries will precipitate a third world war. It is also feared that if the US launches said air strikes, that they will bring us one step closer to sending troops on foot into the Syrian civil war. Neither the Syrian government nor the Syrian citizens have been able to overtake the other, so there seems to be no end in sight, but it's very unlikely that the Syrian government will ever have full control again.
As of this afternoon, August 31, 2013, President Obama is letting Congress vote on whether or not we should launch air strikes against Syria. He said, "a lot of people think something should be done, but nobody wants to do it." He has the ability to make the final decision, but said it was important for the people to decide. I was of the belief that we should mind our own business, but as a member of the UN, the United States does have the responsibility to help the Syrian people in their fight for a democracy. It doesn't appear they can do it on their own. While I do think we should help, I don't think our help needs to involve air strikes. I'm in the camp with other people who believe this can ultimately be solved non-violently. At least I hope it can. I do not, I repeat DO NOT want to see world war three in my lifetime. Isaiah 17:1, a bible verse, has been trending because people believe that the fighting in Damascus brings the second coming of Christ and the end of days. A grim outlook if you ask me.
I didn't want to blog about Syria, but I wanted people to know what's going on. A lot of my peers had no idea why the fighting began in the first place, so I felt the responsibility to outline it for you simply. I hope this helps in some way, and I'd like to hear everyone's opinion on whether we should help or not, and whether we should launch an attack or do this without weapons. Let me hear your opinion one way or another.
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New York Times/NPR articles that I wrote about:
> Read the "Facebook Inquiry" article
> Read the "Android Security" article
> Read the "How to Disappear" article
> Read the "White Supremacist" article
> Read the "Gay Marriage Tax" article
Well, the news is all about Syria, as it should be, and Britain not wanting to be a part of it. That's fine, and I care that it's going on, but I like to leave war politics to politicians. The first thing I want to talk about has nothing to do with Syria, but is definitely a war of sorts. It's the digital information war. The war that government is fighting against our privacy.
I'm one of those people who has nothing to hide from the government, but I support freedom of speech and a right to one's privacy. That being said, I was disgusted to see that Facebook released a report the other day, according to this New York Times article, outlining the government's requests for information on specific Facebook accounts linked to specific people. It doesn't list names, obviously, but I couldn't help wondering if I was one of the 37,954 people the requests pertained to. I'm clearly no threat, but what if something I said on Facebook used one or more of the keywords that the National Security Agency is looking for? I sure hope not.
Facebook said it didn't honor all of the requests, but didn't specify the criteria it used to approve and deny requests. How do you say no to the government? I guess when you're as big as Facebook, and everyone in the world has an account, you can do pretty much whatever you want. I don't think the agency is poking around in innocent people's information, I think they're looking for very specific people who have committed crimes, or conspired to commit crimes that were terrorist related. Still, what should be off limits, and what is fair game? After Facebook released their report, Microsoft and Google came forward and issued similar reports. I don't want the government accessing private information without my consent. I hope these three companies inform the people whose information is being requested. Otherwise, it would be like Big Brother watching us and tracking our every click. Maybe they're already doing it. Who knows? Meanwhile, the government issued a statement warning against security threats on Android phones. Gee, thanks. NPR just published a humorous article called "How to Disappear if Someone is Spying on You" which is appropriate to mention here.
Tiny Life & Tiny House Movement
Have you ever looked around and thought, "I don't need all of this stuff", or that you could manage to live, even thrive, without all of the excess baggage weighing you down? When you whittle down what you really need, you'll see that all the crap you really wanted and had to have looks a little meaningless.
When you've finished whittling and you have a pile of wood shavings all around you, look at what you're left with. A bed, a laptop, a few clothes, something to make food with, something to clean yourself in, etc. I've lived pretty minimally all my life. One of my favorite activities growing up was going through all my stuff and getting rid of or donating what I didn't want. I know, I was a boring little kid.
Too much stuff makes me antsy, and to me, there's no excuse for clutter. I don't understand people who want to keep stuff like thousands of old newspapers in piles around their house. What good are they doing? What do you realistically intend to do with them? If they've been sitting there for years, and you haven't had the inclination to read, sell, or donate them, why are they there? People feel comforted by stuff for some reason, and it baffles me.
The reason I brought this up is because one of my favorite blogs, Twisted Sifter, posted a link to a project where an architecture student converted an old school bus into a mobile home. As I got to thinking, I realized I could totally do that. I could live in a bus. If you're someone who turns their nose up at the notion, really ask yourself why. What are you afraid to part with? Would you die without it? Probably not. Entertain the thought for awhile and imagine what you'd get rid of and how much lighter your life would be. Not to mention how much money you'd be saving in the future. Make a list: start out with the things you've been meaning to donate or throw away. Life doesn't have to be complicated, we just make it complicated.
> Read the article from 08/27/13
> Read the article from 08/28/13
> Read "Is Facebook Making Students Terrible Writers?" (Unrelated)
There was an article on a local news website yesterday that caught my attention. The mayor of New Hope, a small, very gay friendly town that hosts a gay pride parade on its main street every year, refused to marry a same sex couple. The couple had obtained a marriage license in neighboring Montgomery County, despite the fact that it is illegal to do so. They then brought the license to New Hope's mayor, Larry Keller, who refused to officiate, citing the the definition of marriage in Pennsylvania being the union of a man and a woman.
He defended himself stating, "“If it was legal, I’d be happy to do it. But, it’s not the law yet.” I agree with Keller. How can the mayor of a borough defy the law and marry a same sex couple? If he broke the law and got a DUI, there would be an uproar. I don't see why this situation should be any different. Keller is a public figure who, when sworn into office, took an oath to obey and uphold the law.
I had an interesting conversation on Facebook with my friend Brandy after I had posted a link to the article on my timeline. I'm going to re-post it here. I hope she doesn't mind. Here's what was said, including all the bad punctuation, grammar, and syntax that comes with the way everyone writes on Facebook. That's a conversation for another blog. Full conversation after the jump... Click "Read More".
Purchase or download the book.
> Read an excerpt and purchase or download the book from Amazon.
> Learn more about "The Immortal Life..." and author Rebecca Skloot.
> Read "The Sequel" article in the New York Times from March.
You know Henrietta Lacks. What do you mean you don't know her? Do you have polio? No? That's because of Henrietta Lacks. Do you have tuberculosis? No? Again, it's because of Henrietta Lacks. All of the advances made in genome mapping, cancer and AIDS research are all thanks to Henrietta.
Henrietta Lacks went to Johns Hopkins Hospital because something that felt like a "knot" in her womb was giving her trouble. She was wrongly given a clean bill of health several times before the doctors found a tumor right where she said it would be--where she felt the knot in her womb. Dr. George Gey (pronounded "GUY") took samples of the tumor, not only to form a diagnosis, but for his research as well. Henrietta was not informed of the research, nor did she give permission for such research to be done with anything that had come from her body. In the early part of the twentieth century, much less attention was paid to the rights of a patient and their rights regarding tissue taken from them. All Henrietta knew was that samples were being taken for diagnostic purposes. She had no idea what would come of the tumor sample.
Dr. George Gey discovered that Henrietta's cancer cells, labeled "HeLa" for obvious reasons, were virulent, both in regard to the way they grew in culture and how invasive they were in terms of patient prognosis. Henrietta was diagnosed with cervical cancer and immediately underwent radium treatment, a standard treatment for cancer, that turned her belly as black as coal. The radium didn't work. After a grueling battle, Henrietta Lacks passed away leaving behind too many children for her husband to reasonably care for on his own. Her story is tragic...but the cells...
"Now It's Happening"
I just finished watching "Ayn Rand & The Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged", and am truly frightened, and truly angry. Have you read "Atlas Shrugged"? If not, you should. Every thinking man or woman should read the book. After you have, watch this documentary. There's not much to review here, it's just a handful of Ayn Rand proponents essentially outlining her philosophy, and the how the predictions of "Atlas Shrugged" have come true in the present day economy and society as a whole. If you know what's going on in the world, you'll know that it's alarmingly similar to the plot of "Atlas Shrugged", and that's the crux of the film.
Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism states: "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." How could you disagree with that? Everywhere I hear that capitalism is failing, or capitalism has failed, but it's not the fault of capitalism that we're hovering on the edge of economic disaster. It's the fault of every politician who makes a new policy to augment or repair the damage done by the policy set in place before it. It's like a snowball rolling down a mountain, collecting size and speed as it rolls. Government better quit while it's ahead, because the next policy it creates may do us all in.
You can call me paranoid, but it's so odd that everything Ayn Rand wrote about in Atlas Shrugged is coming true today with astonishing similarity and speed. The first book of Ayn Rand's that I read was "Anthem" in my freshman year of high school. I'll never forget the impact that book had on me. The importance of the individual, the power of the word ego, and the proud use of the tiny word "I". Individualism is the code by which I've lived since then, and I have Ayn Rand to thank for it. Our government needs to take the same cue I did 16 years ago and loosen the hold it has on the productive individual. I pray they do, because I don't want to be around to see the mess politicians will make of America if they don't heed the warning in "Atlas Shrugged". A strike like that will be the end of a nation that was once the greatest in the world.
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My name is Nicholas Emeigh, but everyone calls me Nick, and I prefer it. I'm usually called Nicholas when I'm in trouble. I'm from the Philadelphia area, work in business, and fancy myself as a freelance graphic designer, writer, and artist. I have a passion for art in all its forms including music, but I restrict my singing to the shower and the car for the good of society. If you'd like to know more, just send me an e-mail. I really appreciate you stopping by.