Owned and published by UMHB, The Bells is a biweekly publication. This content was previously published in print on the Opinions page. Opinions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff or the university.

Ukraine drenched in violence
Feb25

Ukraine drenched in violence

Last week, after months of civil unrest, rioting protestors shook the foundations in Ukraine’s capital city Kiev. The violence was even too much for the police and President Viktor F. Yanukovych to handle as they suddenly disappeared Saturday. In addition to the political tensions, Christian groups have endured persecution. Instead of responding violently to the chaos, some Ukrainian churches are distributing scripture and holding prayer events on Independence Square where the bulk of the resistance is being displayed. The Baptist Press reported that for the past three months of upheaval, ministries have been engaging in tent-based outreaches where prayer and hot tea are offered on the front lines. The cause of the uprising is simple. The leadership wanted to align the country with the Russians, and the younger population was angry with the administration’s rejection of the pending European Union association agreement. Mezhgorye Sergey Belaus, a major in Ukraine’s State Protection Service reportedly gave control of the president’s opulent home, tennis court and zoo to the head of a band of anti-government militants. This is a concerning turn of events. Does this symbolize a transfer of power to a radical fringe group that violently opposes government? This may lead to competing governmental entities. Andrew Higgins, a reporter for The New York Times wrote in an article, “The east-west divide has bedeviled Ukraine since it first emerged as an independent state after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. In each election since, voters have split along a line running roughly through the middle of the country.” Deepening the division, the parliament voted to take power away from Yanukovych. Even though he’s technically been ousted, he considers the parliament’s decision a coup and plans to continue in his duties. His arch rival, a leader of the Orange Revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko, was released from prison soon after. That uprising included a series of violent protests and political decisions in the early 2000s. Tymoshenko, the prime minister at the time, was a key leader in the rebellion.  She was incarcerated for what some alleged were abuses of power. With the president ousted and a former corrupt prime minister on the loose, Ukraine is in a state of chaos for the unforeseeable future. The Christians feel the regime’s policies have been hostile to their religious activities, but what’s going to replace Yanukovych’s administration? The point was to convince the government to join the more democratically governed EU and to abandon the country’s Soviet, communistic past. How will this happen without a respected central government? Will the EU even want to bring this kind of conflict into the organization? Only time will tell. More...

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Trans-Pacific Partnership hidden from the public
Feb25

Trans-Pacific Partnership hidden from the public

The attacks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a free trade agreement between the United States and 11 other countries. It is one of the largest free trade agreements the U.S. has ever been involved in. Pundits describe it as NAFTA on steroids. Unlike NAFTA, the majority of the American public is unaware of its existence or any of the concessions in the agreement. There has been some media coverage of the negotiations but it is incredibly limited because the negotiations have been done in secret. The website for the U.S. Trade Representative had a few press releases and fact sheets with scant information, but the working draft of the TPP remains classified to the public. Segments of the document have been censored from Congress. The most comprehensive source of information about the TPP has been from Wikileaks. Rep. Alan Grayson and Rep. Elizabeth Warren have both openly criticized the lack of transparency. Warren even voted against the nomination of Michael Froman as the U.S. trade representative ambassador. She said, “I am voting against Mr. Froman’s nomination later today because I believe we need a new direction from the Trade Representative–A direction that prioritizes transparency and public debate.” This document is a free trade agreement, and its transparency should not jeopardize national security. There is no justifiable reason for Congress and the American public to be kept out of the loop. In addition to being classified, the TPP has been fast-tracked, which means that Congress can only vote to approve or disapprove the bill. Representatives cannot amend any of the bill or even attempt a filibuster. The absolute duplicity of the executive branch of government is astonishing. They are attempting to fast-track a bill about free trade that they claim will open up borders while keeping the American public and Congress in the dark. Instead of elected officials exercising their constitutional rights, the USTR and advisory committees, consisting of representatives from different corporations, are determining the future of American foreign trade. Political commentator and activist Noam Chomsky described the TPP as an executive agreement jointly with multinational corporations. Information from the leaked chapters of the TPP shows that several provisions will be made to enhance the power of multinational corporations. One provision being discussed is extending medical patents beyond 20 years. Another provision is to increase restrictions on the fair use of intellectual property. There is no way the American public or even Congress would accept the TPP if they knew all of the included terms. This is why the agreement has been censored. Chomsky said, “This is being rammed down the throats of the populations of the world by...

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From ‘Most Wanted’ to peaceful manifesto

Dead: nearly 3,000 Americans. The attacks on 9/11 stole more than a handful of father-daughter dances, more than a few family outings, more than several grandmothers being able to embrace their first grandchildren. And now the wretch responsible has published a 36-page document inviting you and me to “happiness.” I don’t think so. In America, actions speak louder than words. His name is Khalid Shaik Mohammed (aka KSM). Here are his words: “Do not believe those who claim mujahedeen fight infidels to turn them to Islam or that we are fighting you because you practice democracy, freedom, or claim that you uphold human rights. Islam prohibits us to force our religion on any human being …” Yet, his actions prove differently. He is the accused mastermind behind 9/11 and several other terrrorist plots. He came to the attention of the FBI and CIA in 1995 because of his invvolvement in a failed plot to blow up as many as a dozen U.S. commercial airliners over the Pacific. Perhaps KSM’s seclusion led him to spiritual renewal–leading him to renounce violence. Fat chance. He doesn’t seem too secluded at all, and that’s the real problem. He was given a laptop that allowed him to write his manifesto in his defense. It was originally intended for each member of the military court overseeing his case at Guantanamo Naval Base. Now a military judge’s ruling has deemed these documents unclassified, rendering them available to anyone.  The Huffington Post became a platform, along with Great Britain’s Channel 4 News, for the first installment of KSM’s three-part manifesto. He is now afforded another weapon: propaganda. Some believe secret messages are hidden within the manifestos for the consumption of KSM’s radical colleagues. Others say that allowing him to publish these documents is a necessary step forward after years of torture to prisoners, mainly by waterboarding. But when did America become so soft? Certainly, torture is not the answer, but neither is allowing a mass murderer to spit on the graves of the ones he killed with the words of a poorly written manifesto. The second part of KSM’s manifesto will tell why the World Trade Center attacks happened, and in part three he will explain what he believes about the war on terror. Well, as my mother always told me, “The proof is in the pudding.” All I can hear are the cries of the American families who lost their loved...

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Unions win championships?

The Northwestern University football team had a successful 2013-2014 season. But its biggest impact of the year has arisen in the offseason. They just recently filed a petition with the Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. Yes, you heard it correct. A group of educated football players from Northwestern have teamed up in hopes they could receive benefits that they feel are being held back from them by the NCAA. If the players are allowed to unionize, we might see the NCAA as we know it completely change across the board. In years past, college athletes have been given the bare minimum of protection. According to an article on State.com written by John Culhane, Northwestern’s quarterback Kain Colter is leading the charge with a few specific changes that he believes are imperative. “No one represents us in negotiations. The only way things are going to change is if players have a union,” Colter said. He also dove into the specifics of his mission by stating that unionizing would force the “dictatorship” of the NCAA to provide medical help after players’ careers have ended and safer practice conditions so that athletes aren’t leaving school with life-altering injuries. This is a valid point, but these players aren’t being forced to play. So if they believe it is too dangerous, maybe it would be in their best interest to just not participate.  Simple enough. When this report came out, the majority of analysts and even the NCAA saw it as the Wildcat players begging to get paid for playing. This is a scary thought because paying college athletes would change the whole dynamic of what defines college athletics. NCAA officials responded after they heard the news coming out of the Northwestern campus. “This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes’ into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education,” the      NCAA said. They pushed home that student-athletes’ participation in college sports is voluntary. “We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.” “Many student-athletes are provided scholarships and many other benefits for their participation. There is no employment relationship between the NCAA, its affiliated institutions or student-athletes,”  the NCAA’s chief legal officer said. This is the major problem the Northwestern players will face when trying to make their case. They have voluntarily participated in an extracurricular activity at the university. Even the fact that the school does profit from the games, apparel and other things doesn’t make players employees of that specific university or even the NCAA. It is a stretch for the case to pass and allow the players to be recognized as employees. But it...

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Steps leading to graduation are complex
Feb11

Steps leading to graduation are complex

Seniors often stare at their degree plan for hours and never experience an epiphany about the future. No magic light bulb goes off when a certain number of courses are crossed off the list, and no genie pops out of a magic career lamp with the touch of a college degree. Though it would be wonderful to have three wishes or a free pass to a dream job, the real world provides countless obstacles. Higher education has so many challenges of its own. Jumping through the final few logistic hoops should be the easiest part of growing up, in theory. But like most theories, exceptions exist. Most college seniors have learned responsibility by this point in their lives, but knowing which steps to take before making the leap into adulthood can be complicated. Students deserve some help from the school they invested so much time and money in. It is up to the student to seek help via the online course catalog or a source in the department of their confusion. Navigating the new paperless catalog is an adventure of its own, but finding the right person for each concern poses an even bigger task. On the plus side, hopping between the registrar, bursar and financial aid on a weekly basis provides a nice workout for seniors. Advisers have their place in the system, offering wisdom and logistic direction about which classes and requirements each individual student necessitates. The problem occurs when a student declares a major and minor in opposite fields of study often, often leaving them clueless on one of the two directions. The registrar does, however, offer a four-year plan for every field of study. If freshmen start filling this form out from the beginning, the process can run smoothly. Some juniors receive emails alerting them their accumulated hours have classified them as a senior sooner than they expected. Students need to keep up with their hours, counting them and keeping a tally every semester. Unless surprised seniors already declared  early graduation, their graduation date won’t reflect their hours. Again, it is up to the student to figure this out, manually count the number of credits he or she has completed, and then request an earlier date. One of the last hurdles to jump over lies in the audit process, which happens only one semester before donning a cap and gown. Seniors must know which classes they need to enroll in for their last semester, but they must wait on the official count to be sure everything lines up. This could just be God’s way of teaching patience. Because of the complications surrounding graduation, the “What...

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Marijuana: A smoking gun?
Jan29

Marijuana: A smoking gun?

On election night 2012, Colorado and Washington State legalized the sale and recreational use of marijuana. The rest of the U.S. knew it would be interesting to watch the transition play out, but many did not foresee the problems that would arise as a result when the smoke cleared–or began to rise. When voters chose to make the drug legal, state officials warned that it was still illegal to be in possession of it while on interstate highways or other federally owned property because it still breaks federal rules. Now only weeks after the law officially went into effect, marijuana vendors face a new problem. They can’t deposit the money they make from their sales because banks are forbidden by law to accept cash that’s been involved in the sale of an illegal narcotic, including marijuana. Who determines which law is upheld? Do the banks accept the money because the sales are legal in their states, or do they uphold the nationally accepted law? Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke out on the controversy, hinting that changes could be on the way. He said, “They want to be able to use the banking system. And so we will be issuing some regulations I think very soon to deal with that issue.” If laws are changed at the federal level to allow marijuana vendors to deposit their money in banks, what does that mean for other states that do not wish to comply with the legalization of marijuana? Will they eventually be forced to make the same decision because the centralized government is making special concession for state governments? The domestic disputes are not the only problems to consider. The drug war still rages along the U.S.-Mexico border from San Diego, Calif. to Brownsville, Texas. Colorado, one of the states in question, is only one state removed from the hotbed of narcotic trafficking. There are serious national security concerns as cartels may buy marijuana legally in Colorado or Washington and then smuggle it into surrounding states and across the borders. What would stop U.S. citizens from becoming entrepreneurial and purchasing recreational weed and selling in places where it is still prohibited? Are law enforcement and the legal system prepared to deal with this potential rise in crime? According to the Denver Post, the federal government accused a Mexican Mennonite group of cooperating with the Juarez drug cartel of moving pot to North Carolina and Colorado. Seven members of the Mennonite community were indicted by a federal grand jury in Colorado. Legalizing marijuana seems to be creating more problems than it’s solving. Parts of the U.S. could become the...

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