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.

Woman’s execution halted

A Dallas judge postponed the execution of a Texas woman who would have been the first woman put to death in the U.S. since 2010. State District Judge Larry Mitchell halted the execution of Kimberly McCarthy after an appeal by McCarthy’s lawyers that focused on whether the jury that convicted and sentenced her to death was selected improperly based on race. The jury was made up of 11 white people and one black person. McCarthy is black. McCarthy, 51, was convicted and faced lethal injection for the 1997 beating, stabbing and robbery of her 71-year-old neighbor in Lancaster, Texas. Evidence showed that McCarty phoned her neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar. Instead of retrieving it,  McCarthy was convicted of assaulting her neighbor, stabbing her with a knife, beating her with a candle holder and severing her ring finger to steal a wedding ring. Prosecutors presented evidence that tied McCarthy to similar slayings of two other women in Dallas in December 1988, which sealed the deal for the jury that McCarthy    was guilty. McCarthy’s lawyer said that “of the twelve jurors seated at trial, all were white, except one, and eligible non-white jurors were excluded from serving by the state….These facts must be understood in the context of the troubling and long-standing history of racial discrimination in jury selection.” The DA’s office had called the effort a “mere delay” tactic, saying the record didn’t support a legal claim for discrimination. Are the defense attorneys procrastinating to buy McCarthy more time? Or are they genuinely concerned that there is evidence of racial discrimination against her? It’s hard to tell if the jury sentenced her to death because of her race or of her crimes. The basis of racial discrimination should not be allowed in the courtroom. If a person committed a crime, he or she should be punished fairly. The Declaration of Independence, an official U.S. document, states that all men are created equal, which should hold the same amount of power in a U.S. courtroom. Some believe that the death penalty should not be used in the case of a female defendant, while others argue that all criminals should be punished for their crimes. McCarthy would have been the 13th woman executed in the U.S. and the fourth in Texas, the nation’s busiest death penalty state, since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976. During that same time period, 1,300 male inmates have been executed nationwide. McCarthy is one of 10 women currently on death row in Texas, but only one with an execution date, or who had an execution date. No doubt this punishment for...

Read More
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...

Read More
Russia bans adoptions
Jan29

Russia bans adoptions

Many American families aren’t sure what the future holds for them after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law last month banning the adoption of Russian children by                                       American families. Putin put the law into effect after he claimed U.S. authorities routinely let Americans suspected of violence go unpunished. This was a reference to Dima Yakolev who was adopted by Americans. He died in 2008 after his father left him in a car for hours in blistering heat. Yakolev’s father was not found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Backers of the new bill said that American adoptive parents have been abusive, citing 19 deaths of adopted Russian children since the 1990s. In 2012, an American woman sparked outrage after she sent her adopted son back to Russia on a one-way flight. The woman said that the boy, then 7, had violent episodes that made her family fear for their safety. Out of the 60,000 Russian children who have been adopted by American families in the past two decades, 59,981 of them are still alive. Russian leaders don’t seem to realize that all of the 19 deaths were, most likely, accidental. For example, China did not ban adoptions after Christian songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman’s daughter was accidentally killed. But it’s not just the Americans who are frustrated by the turn of events; the Russians are upset as well. On Sunday, Jan. 13, thousands marched through Moscow to protest Putin’s ban on adoption. The march was led by many who also want to put an end to Putin’s 13-year reign. One poster read “Parliament deputies to orphanages, Putin to an old people’s home.” Maybe now, Russian leaders will consider lifting the ban since it’s not only the Americans who are upset. A Putin spokesperson tried to ease some of the anger by announcing that most of the adoptions currently under way could proceed. This will allow the children who have already met their adoptive families to leave the country without any difficulties. But what about the other thousands of children who are without loving families to care for them? UNICEF estimates about 740,000 children in Russia are without parental custody, and only 18,000 Russians are on the waiting list to adopt. While leaders are encouraging more Russians to adopt, that is very unlikely to happen. When a Russian orphan reaches the age of 15 or 16, UNICEF estimates that one in three live on the streets, one in five is a criminal, and one in ten commits suicide. Many families as well as adoption advocates are hoping and praying that the ban will be lifted so children can become members of a...

Read More

Coin to “cancel” debt

It’s been said that drastic times call for drastic measures. As legislators on Capitol Hill deliberate about the state of the U.S. economy and what should be done about it, some on the left, seemingly unconcerned about the government’s spending problems, simply want to blast a gaping hole in the debt ceiling that is repeatedly pushed higher. If the Republicans want to be total killjoys and stop reckless spending, the obvious solution is to mint a $1 trillion coin. That’s right—one platinum coin worth $1 trillion. Think it’s crazy? So did a host of critics in Washington when it was proposed. In fairness, there are always two sides to every coin. Those in favor of the  idea claim it’s completely legal. Those opposed say, although it’s legal, it’s just downright irresponsible and would only be a loud clink in the fiscal bucket. The idea poked its head through a legal loophole that was intended to allow the secretary of treasury to mint collectible coins. What is not found between the lines of the nebulous wording is a limit on the value of the coins. In theory, the super-coin would cancel out $1 trillion of the deficit when placed in the federal treasury. However, others claim inflation would skyrocket as a result of such a hasty act. Interestingly, members of the Obama administration see the financial responsibility exhibited by ending the federal government’s spending problem as an attack on the population. White House Spokesperson Jay Carney, who was criticized for not ruling out the idea, being one of them, said in a statement related to the topic of the coin, “The President and the American people won’t tolerate Congressional Republicans holding the American economy hostage again simply so they can force disastrous cuts to Medicare and other programs the middle class depend on while protecting the wealthy. Congress needs to do its job.” On the flip side, Judge Andrew Napolitano, a political commentary, spoke out in opposition to the coin. He thinks the idea would only worsen the situation. “It would be economically catastrophic, he said.  ”It would result in massive inflation it would devalue everything that everybody already owns and it would be fruitless. If this were not so, then why doesn’t the government give all of us coins and make all of us billionaires?” They say what’s at the top trickles down. Maybe the economic indecision being showcased by Congress has originated in the Oval Office itself. Every president before the current one has routinely approved a yearly budget. Obama is entering his fifth year in office and has not done so once. And Congress wonders why it...

Read More

Gossip spreading over news

While a fiscal cliff, super storm Sandy and possible state secession spin dust that threaten a national tornadolike disaster, you’d think these topics would dominate the news. Instead, rumors of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez’s breakup fill social media feeds like wildfire. Should an actual fire spark the wild, few would recognize it through the dense cloud of smoky gossip. While scanning the tabloids at H-E-B appears innocent, more people seem to know about Lindsey Lohan’s increasingly long list of criminal offenses than the number of signatures on a state’s petition for withdrawal from the country. With monumental changes on the national horizon, the issuance of pop culture as informational proves progressively disturbing. Celebrity gossip has transformed into a need-to-know priority that consumes networking sites. Such is the problem with a minute-by-minute media, where the latest dish on behind-the-scenes Twilight drama supercedes that of the president of the United States. While Jelena does in fact hold a spot in the hearts of many, Hurricane Sandy survivors should take primacy in headlines and posts. But who’s to blame for this fumbling of media superiority? While public figures enjoy the spotlight, their faces appear continuously in magazines. The “Baby” singer and crew would probably prefer fewer paparazzi in their faces and more fresh air. These stars of stage and screen carry no fault, at least in this situation. Another possible cause of the chaos rests in the hands of the press. If the media are to blame, what part deserves the pointing finger? News anchors, journalists, editors and photographers merely perform their jobs to receive a paycheck. Because they generate the questions, evidence and provocative images, can culture pin guilt on them? If not the fame or the press, then who? If not the supply, then the demand. Thank you, fundamental economics. Who requests the whereabouts of the Biebs? The public. Tweens, teens and unashamed adult fangirls buy the papers plastered with their favorite famous faces. Who cares if Justin’s new ink stretches across his forearm? They do. And they are willing to pay a ridiculous sum of money, especially when the prized paper contains a poster of the latest heartthrob. If this country desires a return to strictly informative and breaking-news updates, the public must voice a need for these changes. In turn, suppliers could then redirect their focus, training the stage lights on politicians and natural disasters instead of gossip like Taylor Swift and her often shaky romances. Rather than zooming in the binoculars on the distant lives of the rich and famous, they should take a microscope to the here and now. What matters where you are living?...

Read More

Speeding, tailgating and road rage, oh my!

Crusader Way is a scary place. The recently remodeled road is smooth, wide and perfect for reckless driving. Though the posted speed limit is 30 mph, students tend to drive as fast as they please in order to reach their destinations. Heaven forbid they get stuck behind someone actually going the speed limit! Speeding and tailgating go hand in hand as some of the worst driving habits. Combine the two with a self-focused attitude, and the recipe for disaster is fool proof. Recently on Crusader Way, a friend ran into one of these triple-threat drivers. Though she was going the speed limit, it was not fast enough for the person behind her. The driver tailgated her, flashed his brights, tried to pass her and held down the horn when she didn’t speed up. Thankfully, she turned at the next intersection, and the reckless motorist behind her gunned the engine and sped away. Crusader Way isn’t the only issue; cars race through campus and all over town 24/7. From parking lots to I-35, reckless driving runs rampant among the student population. According to the Annual Report published by Campus Police, the number of traffic accidents reported on campus increased by approximately 49% in 2011. As the university transitions to a walking campus, the risks of driving dangerously increase. The number of pedestrians grows every semester, causing more traffic at campus intersections. Students rush from one class to the next, weaving in front of cars and cutting diagonally between crosswalks. Drivers grow frustrated as the rush of people throw caution to the wind and march across the street without looking both ways. Revving the engine, tapping the horn or inching into the intersection might seem like a good way to show frustration, but these behaviors can lead to road rage and driving mistakes. Turn those pedestrians into cars, and the issue of tailgating arises. Rather than being patient, drivers put lives at risk and get uncomfortably close to the vehicles in front of them. The purpose of tailgating is generally to bully the car ahead into moving aside so a motorist can pass. The risks of tailgating are great, especially when the first car in line slams on its brakes — an instant fender-bender. Tailgating at 30 mph can cause minor damage. Increase the speed of the vehicles, and the stakes rise. According to the 2011 Texas Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Crash Statistics, Bell County had more than one third the number of wrecks involving speeding as Travis County, home of the state capital. The faster a car goes, the longer it takes to stop, the greater the amount of...

Read More