Snowden scandal plagues NSA
Aug27

Snowden scandal plagues NSA

Just when some Americans thought the administration could not bear the weight of another scandal, one more pushed its way to the forefront of national news coverage, which was alarmist and sensationalistic at best. In June, Edward Snowden, a government-hired computer expert blew the whistle on the federal mining of private citizens’ digital data. The National Security Agency collects phone records, lengths of calls, text messages, emails and other information under the guise of combating terror. Regardless of whether he’s a hero for exposing the privacy-compromising practices or a traitor for divulging specifics of U.S. intelligence programs, he paved the way for open communication on privacy issues that Americans on both sides of the debate feel strongly about. Even President Barack Obama, who made clear he believed the leaker was no patriot, admitted some good came of the debacle. He said, “There’s no doubt that Mr. Snowden’s leaks triggered a much more rapid and passionate response than would have been the case if I had simply appointed this review board.” Many would like to know what the administration plans to do with what it has learned. Given its passive responses to the recently abounding scandals, people in the U.S. are not confident in their  government or its ability to implement necessary changes. But not to worry. James Clapper, head of the NSA is the poster child for the White House policy of transparency. After all, he did say he endeavored to answer questions at the congressional hearing  “in the least untruthful way possible.” Equally as disturbing is the media’s coverage of the story. Instead of bringing the facts to light, they withheld bits of information to make the scenario appear more bizarre and scandalous. For example, numerous news outlets reported Snowden to be a high school dropout. However, it soon surfaced in an interview with the leaker’s father that he stopped attending school to care for his terminally ill mother before completing a high school equivalency program, attaining a bachelor’s degree and working toward a master’s from the University of Liverpool. In addition to the benefits of higher education, he’s gained experience serving in multiple capacities for both U.S. and British intelligence agencies. In short, Snowden is not the ignorant, uneducated fool the American public first perceived him to be. Further fanning the flames of controversy, most publications ran headlines that forced readers to declare Snowden either a “hero” or a “traitor” before having even read so far as the byline. The reckless, irresponsible angle from which many outlets approached the story left the public no choice but to be divided and argumentative. It fits perfectly into the media’s...

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Baylor welcomes President, grieves West
Apr30

Baylor welcomes President, grieves West

More than a week after the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas that left 12 firefighters dead, family, friends and fellow Texans gathered to attend a memorial service in their honor. The event, held at Baylor University’s Ferrell Center, featured video eulogies, prayers and speeches given by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and President Barack Obama, who was joined by the first lady. Former president George W. Bush regretted not being attendance due to the opening of his presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, but sent his condolences, which were read by Baylor’s President Ken Starr. Outside the arena, the color guard led a long procession of fire engines trailed by mourning loved ones. Motorcycliists lined the street holding large American flags. In front of them, hundreds of others gathered to respectfully watch the parade of sorrow. Once inside the center, thousands of people stood in silence as the families filed in and sat on the ground level in front of the line of caskets that separated them from the stage. Perry acknowledged the courage of the firefighters by saying, “Our first responders know they’re placing themselves in danger, whether they’re braving the flames of a fire … or racing to the scene of an accident.” He further described the noble men as “ordinary individuals blessed with extraordinary courage and determination to do what they could–to save lives. He offered hopeful and comforting words to the families present and to the community where their loved ones died. “Know that the spirit that drove those men that we loved … that spirit lives on…. Let their deeds serve as an inspiration for all of us to live lives of meaning, and to commit serving our neighbors and communities.” “I cannot match the power of the voices yuo just heard on that video,” Obama said as he opened. “No words adequately describe the courage that was displayed on that deadly night. What I can do is offer the love, support and prayers of the nation.” He reminded those present that, “we might not all live in Texas, but we’re neighbors too.” And with that, the crowd applauded loudly. Obama recounted the stories of friends and neighbors helping each other in the days following the explosion. “What makes West special is not the attention from far-flung places,” he said. What makes West special, what puts it on the map is what makes it familiar … things that are solid, and true and lasting.” Referring to the selflessness the town exhibited, Obama said, “Today, the thing I see in the people of West, in your eyes, that’s  what makes West special isn’t...

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Outpouring of help and support for West
Apr18

Outpouring of help and support for West

A deadly chemical explosion caused by a fire at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas, north of Waco, left about 200 injured and an unconfirmed number deceased. Some news outlets are reporting as many as 50 dead and others as few as five. Crews from all over the state have been working tirelessly to make sense of the chaotic scene. Texas Gov. Rick Perry described it in a press conference as “truly a nightmare scenario.” In Amarillo, equipment measured the strength of the resulting jolt from the explosion as having the strength of a 2.5 earthquake on the Richter scale. The event has garnered national and international attention. Pope Francis even tweeted about the tragedy saying, “Please join me in praying for the victims of the explosion in Texas and their families.” President Barack Obama asked for a moment of silence in Congress this morning. In the midst of the tragedy, people have mobilized to help their neighbors. Assistant Professor and Lab Coordinator Kelda McMullen-Fix teaches nursing at UMHB and is an RN at the emergency department at Hillcrest Hospital in Waco. She was called into work last night as injured people started streaming into the emergency room from West. “I was out in the triage bay area where the ambulances were coming in and also private vehicles with injured people,” she said. McMullen-Fix was working with patients who were not seriously injured and could wait for a few moments to be placed in a hospital room. She said more than 100 people were taken to Hillcrest following the explosion. “There was a regular stream of ambulances and a pretty steady stream of cars,” McMullen-Fix said. “But there weren’t ambulances waiting one after another …. It was well organized, plenty of help. There were outstanding numbers of people who responded to come and help … people brought water … I think they bought Wal-Mart out of water.” Citizens of the Central Texas area and neighboring regions responded quickly to needs of those affected. This morning Bush’s Chicken offered to feed first responders. Last night, the East Texas Medical Center in Tyler sent teams to assist in the rescue efforts. Many other businesses have donated goods to residents and first responders. “It was really awesome to see that community wanting to help in that time,” McMullen-Fix said. There have been many conflicting reports concerning the death toll. Because of this, Gov. Perry urges people to remember that all information at this point is “very preliminary.” First responders are reported dead and missing. A final count of casualties and injuries is still in progress. Last night and this...

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Third Day concludes,  highlights C3
Apr17

Third Day concludes, highlights C3

If it felt like the heart of Texas was beating a little harder than usual, that was because renowned Christian band Third Day rocked the foundations of the Bell County Expo Center after making an appearance at Hughes Hall. Their visit April 7 closed out music department Chair, Dr. Mark Aaron Humphrey’s, 2013 C3 series. The purpose of which he said is to “talk about the arts and faith and how those things collide.” Scheduling conflicts and a calendar full of nationwide bookings for the group were no match for Humphrey’s dogged persistence, which is to thank for the last-minute arrangement. Considering the event coincided with The Cru men’s basketball team’s biggest game ever, he was pleased with the turnout. “The fact that Third Day was on campus … even the fact that it happened at the same time as the national championship was cool because it was kind of like, ‘hey, UMHB … there’s things happening,’” Humphrey said. Even though the band was working under a time crunch, Humphrey thinks he was able to have an insightful dialogue with its members despite not spending time with them prior to the interview. Humphrey said, “In general, the more famous the band, the harder it is to create a meaningful conversation … but I think we got in some good time.” Third Day’s newest album and tour are called Miracle after the title track. The goal of this collection of inspirational music is to uplift and encourage listeners and let them know that good things can still take place in their lives. Frontman Mac Powell said, “The thing that we have to remember is that miracles still do happen, and God, I believe, is still in the business of miracles…. He wants us to be miracles in somebody else’s life.” The concert that followed later in the evening was opened by fellow Christian recording artists Josh Wilson and Colton Dixon. They both gave inspiring performances and had large fan bases present. However, when Third Day took the stage, the crowd erupted with a contagious energy that hung thick in the air for the remainder of the night. Third Day fans responded enthusiastically to the new music from Miracle, but they came unglued when the band began to play a few of its older, recognizable classics like “Cry Out to Jesus,” “I Believe” and “Born Again.” At the end of the concert, the audience began to shout and applaud wildly for several minutes in anticipation of an encore until the group came back out and played several more songs to conclude the...

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Retired four-star general is distinguished guest speaker

Every academic year, Drayton and Elizabeth McLane host an educational and inspiral speaker on UMHB’s camppus. This year’s distinguished guest speaker was retired four-star general, Peter Chiarelli. As Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army in the Bush administration, he oversaw much of the the Iraq war. He currently serves as the CEO of the non-profit organization One Mind for Research, which dedicates its resources to studying mental illness and brain injuries. When the war in Iraq broke out, Chiarelli was challenged in ways he had never considered. He learned that good supervisors sometimes rely on the help of others. “I think it’s important that when you’re put in a situation as a leader that’s different than anything you’ve ever done before, you need to draw on the experience of those around you…. I believe that in order to be a good leader, you’ve gotta be a good follower.” The general has a passion for helping victims of post-traumatic stress disorder and is raising awareness about the heightened suicide rate in the in the armed forces. His Army background laid the foundation for his current work with One Mind for Research. He said, “I saw a suicide rate in the Army that doubled in about eight years …. I was absolutely dumbfounded within the first eight days when somebody came into my office and showed me a chart that showed by far the most prolific wound coming out of this war was traumatic brain injury.” Katherine Smith, a sophomore elementary education major, attended the McLane Lecture. She sees a lot of positive effects coming from the series. Smith said, “I think it’s a good thing. I think it gives us an opportunity to hear someone come and speak who’s done some incredible things in their lifetime and can be incredibly motivational for college students.” Smith was impressed that Chiarelli would  visit the university. “I thought it was pretty cool because it was really nice of him to take that time out of his schedule and visit us, knowing he’s such an important person,” she said. She also commends his efforts to improve the treatment of brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. “I think it’s good. I think it’s important…. that even though he’s retired and everything, that he’s still trying to make a difference in the best way, he knows how. It’s inspiring.” Freshman education major Alana Filban was also in attendance. She believes in the cause the speaker is fighting for and thinks more awareness should be raised. She said, “I found General Chiarelli’s speech very interesting … post-traumatic  stress disorder is an issue for soldiers that...

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