Striking Situation in Syria

Chaos. Quagmire. Debacle. These words do not even begin to describe the situation in Syria. Everything that could go wrong has basically gone wrong. It began with peaceful demonstrations for a more democratic Syria. President Bashar al-Assad responded with extreme measures and the military gunned down civilians in the street. Eventually, the protesters began fighting back, and many soldiers defected to the side of the rebels. The conflict escalated to a full blown civil war. Both sides were accused of committing war crimes and other atrocities. The destabilization led to a massive crime wave and also left  the Syrian economy in shambles. The Syrian rebels are not united. There have been multiple reports of fighting between the moderate Free Syrian Army and many radical Islamist groups. Just when it seemed the situation could not get any worse, one of the sides committed a horrible chemical weapons attack. In response to the attack, U.S. President Barack Obama threatened to bomb suspected chemical weapons sites which would douse gas on the fires raging in Syria. At this point, the U.S. public at large took notice of the conflict. Americans across the nation, especially those with family members in the military, collectively cringed at the thought of America entering another military conflict. The first sign of hope in the crisis came from Russia. Yes, Russia, the same country that has essentially revoked the free speech of all non-heterosexual individuals and was America’s longtime Cold War enemy saved Obama’s bacon. Obama said Assad had crossed a red line, so Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government brokered a deal for the removal of all chemical weapons from Syria. The world was shocked that Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner had to be talked out of war by the former director of the KGB. Maybe they were attempting the good copbad cop routine. On the same night, Assad’s interview aired on Fox News. The Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil had more good news regarding the Syrian Civil War. He told a reporter for the Guardian that he was ready to negotiate a cease-fire with the rebels. He believed that the conflict was at a stalemate. Jamil also commented on the catastrophic death toll and the severe damage to the Syrian economy. These talks of cease-fire are a positive sign for Syria, but the current situation is so tense that there is no guarantee that either side will agree to the terms. In addition to this, many of the radical groups that are part of the Syrian opposition, and those in support of Assad, pose a huge threat to the stability of the country....

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American church falls to idols of the world

With statements like, “America was founded on Christian principles” or “We are a shining city on a hill,” some politicians and pastors seem to believe that God was one of the original signers of the Constitution. The majority of Americans believe that America was founded as a Christian nation—according to a survey by the First Amendment Center, 65 percent of the population believe this. Many pastors preach about how America is in decline because it has turned from the Christian heritage once valued by the people. Republican politicians often run with promises to steer America back toward God. In 2003, a select group of a few hundred families looked at America and did not like what they saw and did something about it. They created Christian Exodus, whose core belief is that America has left its Christian roots and become a land of moral decay. The group believes the solution is for Christians to break away from the land of the free and home of the decayed. An excerpt from the organization’s website explains how the initial goal was to move thousands of Christian constitutionalists to South Carolina to accelerate the return to self-government based upon Christian principles at the local and state level. The project continues to this day, with the ultimate goal of forming an independent Christian nation that will survive after the decline and fall of the financially and morally bankrupt American empire. The average person most likely considers the idea of South Carolina breaking off and forming an independent Christian nation absurd, but the sentiment that America is shedding its Christian values and becoming a land of decadence is common. Facing the depravity of man is something every Christian experiences. Expecting society to be anything but sinful is naïve, and believing that past society was less sinful is foolish. The belief that America was once a shining land of saints is polluting the church. Many Christians idolize the supposed traditional American values of the past. The only traditional values a Christian should turn to are those preached by Jesus and practiced by the early church (see the first five books of the New Testament). The truth is most of the founders of our nation, those who drafted the Constitution and held public office, were not professing evangelical Christians. Many of them were deists and quite secular in nature. The notion that America was founded to espouse Christian values is folly. Biblical concepts and themes can be found in the Constitution, but the same can be said for almost all Western literature and law. Our Constitution begins “We the People,” and the name God is mentioned...

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A drink from the past

Water is often described as being one the fundamental building blocks of life, and it is known as nature’s perfect liquid. It is the most consumed beverage on the planet. The majority of people enjoy their water straight, and if  the weather is hot, then it is often chilled with pieces of frozen water in it. Throughout history, however, man has developed several ways to spruce up water. There is not one drink on earth that is not at least some part water. Soda and juice are simple mixtures of sugar water and flavoring. Coffee is just hot water that has been filtered through ground beans. Beer is just barley that has been fermented in water and then filtered out. Even milk is just a mix of several proteins and vitamins swirled into water. All of the aforementioned ways of sprucing up water are familiar and preferred, but they are not the most popular. The most common way for people to enhance their water is to heat and strain it through dried leaves and create a beverage known as tea. Every year humans consume a staggering four million metric tons of tea. The average tea bag contains about two grams of dried tea leaf. That means the consumption of tea is two trillion cups per year, which is 285 cups of tea per person. Tea is quite an old beverage, but is certainly not the oldest beverage. Humans drank beer and milk thousands of years before they discovered tea. The earliest record of tea is from 1500 B.C. in China during the period of the Shang Dynasty. It was consumed for medicinal purposes and not recreational. Tea remained in the East for nearly 2,000 years. It was not until the 1500s that Portuguese merchants brought tea to the West. Today most Americans prefer coffee to tea. Whenever tea is consumed, it is usually with ice and sweetened with sugar, which is the opposite of how the rest of the world drinks it. Despite its loss in popularity over the years, tea played an important role in  American history. In the mid-1700s England raised the tax on tea. A group from Boston retaliated by disguising themselves as Indians and dumping a large shipment of tea into the harbor in an event known as the Boston Tea Party. Part of the reason for the popularity of tea is that it is grown on every continent. The largest producers of tea are India and China, which are also the largest consumers of the product. Half of the tea in the world is consumed in India and China. Camellia sinensis is the scientific...

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War in Syria doesn’t appear to end soon
Jan29

War in Syria doesn’t appear to end soon

Americans love a story about rebellion. This is why Star Wars is so popular. When revolutions for democracy unfold across the globe, we watch with keen interest Revolution is in our blood, of course. Every child is taught in school about how George Washington and the Continental Army beat the British and set up freedom and democracy for Americans. The civil war in Syria and the revolutions in Egypt and Libya are being portrayed as popular uprisings against corrupt and tyrannical regimes. Roughly 700 days ago, peaceful and stable governments in the Middle East and northern Africa began to face resistance from the public. The opposition manifested into massive protests in countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria. The widespread unrest culminated into the supposed Arab Spring. Egypt and Libya were sites of violent revolutions, and Syria has been embroiled in civil war since March 15, 2011. Over the next year, the revolutions in Egypt and Libya led to the overthrow and removal of the governments. Because the revolutions were complete, the public assumed that peace would follow, and public interest began to fade. Of course, that assumption could not be further from the truth. The countries involved in the Arab Spring continue to be fraught  with turmoil. Fairy tales and movies end neatly when the evil king is deposed, and the land is blessed with peace and prosperity. Reality is that revolutions cause chaos for years and years. More often than not, a worse leader will replace the old one. It is much too soon to be remotely optimistic about the Middle East, especially Syria. The country is still entangled in a bloody civil war that has claimed more than 60,000 lives. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled to neighboring countries. After Egypt and Libya dropped from the front pages, the Syrian crisis took their spot. The crisis in Syria hardly makes the news anymore. Viewers and readers have likely become desensitized, so the media  are done featuring it. The public and media got tired of waiting for the Syrian revolutionaries to prevail. Now we go back to news that is normal for this time of year—Academy Award predictions and an in-depth look at the hottest Super Bowl ads. Even though most people know the story of the American Revolution, they often do not know about the inner turmoil that America endured after the British left. The country almost went bankrupt, went through two constitutions and dealt with two internal rebellions before Washington’s first term. There is no happy storybook ending in sight for Syria or any country involved in the Arab  Spring. What will bring an...

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Fiscal cliff looms high
Dec06

Fiscal cliff looms high

Financial meltdown, debt ceiling crisis, and now fiscal cliff. Since the recession, a number of creatively named spending and budget hiccups have befallen the U.S. government. The most recent crisis is the fiscal cliff. The term was created earlier this year to describe a set of foreboding tax hikes and government spending cuts that will occur at the end of this year. Like any major political issue, there are several different opinions on the severity of the fiscal cliff. Some pundits have claimed that tax burden on businesses and families will surely cause a recession, and others believe that the supposed sheer drop of the cliff will actually turn out to be a gentle slope and will cause no adverse effects. The last surplus the U.S. government had was back in 2001. Ever since then, the government has been running at a deficit. This constant shortfall has caused the national debt to rise from $6 trillion in 2001 to its current level of $16 trillion. To put this amount into perspective, consider the Gross Domestic Product for the U.S. was $15 trillion in 2011. At the beginning of his first term, George W. Bush offered significant cuts to payroll, estate and income taxes. During his term, he also started two wars, but did not raise taxes to pay for them. The recession and the economic stimulus packages only worsened the debt. The Bush era tax cuts, which were extended by Obama in 2010 are set to run out at the beginning of 2013. This is expected to raise government tax revenue by $536 billion dollars. According to the New York Times, this would cause an average increase of $3,400 in taxes per family, and the median household would face a $2,000 increase. One fear of the leaders in government is that the increase on capital gains will cause many investors to pull their money out before the end of December. It is unlikely that the minor crisis of the fiscal cliff will cause a recession. The current uncertainty of the government is what is really responsible for any negative effects on the market. It is a shame that Congress has waited so long to take care of the situation. The threat behind the fiscal cliff is not an impending recession. CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett, has compared the fiscal cliff to economic setback similar to Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Katrina. Recessions are not predicted until it is much too late to do anything about them. The elected officials of the government are smart enough to know they do not want to be held responsible for a recession, so...

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