Category: Politics

2013 in review

2013 was a year of tragedy, triumph and new beginnings. Here is a look back, in chronological order, at the stories that impacted BU students and the entire city of Boston the most this year.

Winter Storm Nemo prompts cancellation of classes, snowball fight, arrest

Freshman Anthony Barksdale II dies after being medically transported to hospital from function at Allston house, Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity suspended, alcohol policies at BU reformed 

Jack Parker retires after 40 years as men’s hockey coach, is replaced by former BU player and assistant coach David Quinn

Women’s hockey team reaches Frozen Four, falls in national title game

BU cuts varsity wrestling program

Explosions rock Boston Marathon finish line, BU student Lingzi Lu dies, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev captured after daylong manhunt shuts down Boston

BU student Binland Lee dies in off-campus house fire

Gender-neutral housing approved by University

Boston celebrates as Red Sox clinch World Series title at home

Martin Walsh wins mayoral race over John Connolly, becoming first new mayor of Boston in 20 years

James ‘Whitey’ Bulger sentenced to 2 life terms in prison

Mayor Thomas Menino to chair initiative at BU in 2014 following end of mayoral term

For a look at some of the images of 2013, click here to view our album. 

Vine bringing the public closer to the President

Vine, bringing us one step closer to Mr. President more than this piece of local artwork/ PHOTO VIA Flickr user Robert Hoge

By Kristina Saliba, Staff Writer

One thing I never thought I would share with the President of the United States? We both Vine. That’s right America; your President was recently featured in his very own Vine, a relatively new social media app that let’s you put together short video clips that you film on your smart phone.

According to an article from Yahoo! News, the President’s first Vine features Bill Nye the Science Guy and PBS host LeVar Burton. They are promoting the third annual White House Science Fair, an event that encourages science and celebrates student winners and their projects from all over the country. During this event, Obama goes from exhibit to exhibit examining different scientific and technological experiments and designs. Fortunately for all of us, this leads audiences to the White House’s second Vine post: Mr. President himself skillfully pedaling a stationary bike in his suit and tie, demonstrating the “bike-powered water filtration system”.

This Vine is one step among many that the White House has been taking to immerse itself more fully in social media, which is a great thing to see. It takes our President down from the heightened position he has. Vine makes him seem far more approachable, more like a regular guy who also rides stationary bikes on the White House lawn to filter water.

I would personally love to see more Vine videos to get a glimpse at the daily activities and events our President and the White House partake in. The Vine of our President on a bike is just another example of how social media has made our world smaller, bringing people closer to each other for better or worse. The White House also has a Twitter that let’s us know what’s going on up there on Capital Hill. Hopefully they keep it up.

The continuing gun control debate; prospects for reform

By Ann Jacob, Staff Writer

The gun control debate continues/ PHOTO VIA smartgunlaws.org

A variety of firearms laid on on the grass. The debate as to how to best change gun ownership laws continues/ PHOTO VIA smartgunlaws.org

Last Tuesday, the Team 26, a group of 26 cyclists from Newtown, CT including the father of one of the children who was killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School last December and Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) arrived in Washington, D.C. after a four hundred mile bike ride from Newtown.

Team 26 is named for the 26 students and teachers who were killed in Newtown three months ago. When the group arrived in D.C. they were greeted by well-wishers, and their objective was to talk to legislators about gun reforms.

Ultimately, the goal of the Team 26 and the other group associated with Newtown, Sandy Hook Promise Innovative Initiative is “a ‘call for ideas’ to reduce gun violence and a commitment by leading venture capitalists and angel investors to fund promising innovations in gun safety, mental health research and related new technologies.”

David Horsey of the Los Angeles Times wrote a piece last week on the odd relationship between the decline in gun ownership and the increase in gun sales. He posits that this can be attributed to a fearful few Americans purchasing many guns, while most Americans stay away from guns.  As Horsey reports, according to the General Social Survey, “the number of U.S. households with guns dropped from 50% in 1973 to 34% in 2012. This decline has shown up everywhere, including the historically gun-toting regions of the South and West.” The question remains: if gun ownership is declining and American views on guns and gun ownership is shifting, why not use this moment to develop consensus?

The New York Times created some graphs on American views’ on gun control in January, which illustrate that most Americans favor background checks on potential gun buyers, a national database of gun sales, as well as a ban on high capacity magazines. Also, most Americans favor stricter gun control laws.

So, if specific kinds of weapons that use high capacity magazines meant for the battlefield are used in mass shootings, why not limit those kinds of weapons? According to an article on Politico.com, opponents of gun control legislation, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) state that legislation to ban specific weapons would be violating the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which grants U.S. citizens the right to bear arms. However, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) put is best in the Judiciary Committee when she questioned how many guns Americans need. Sen. Feinstein has proposed a ban on “157 different models of assault weapons, as well as magazines containing more than 10 bullets,” which is set to come before the Senate soon.

The important part of the legislation that Americans who are opposed to such legislation need to keep in mind is that even though the bill may ban 157 weapons, there are still over 2000 guns that people may purchase legally, as discussed in the Rachel Maddow Show. The bill essentially is limiting or banning the types of weapons or magazines that have been involved in the most horrific mass shootings in the last few decades.  Hopefully, the Senate and the House will come to a consensus on this issue, if not for the safety of our citizens and country, then at least for their own political futures.

Voting Rights Act renewal reviewed with skepticism

By Ann Jacob, Staff Writer

The Rosa Parks statue was revealed in Washington last Wednesday. Across the street, protestors uphold the rights she fought for as provisions in the Voting Act requiring cities and towns with a history of prejudice to submit changes in voting laws to the Justice Department for approval are debated in the Supreme Court./PHOTO VIA U.S. Government Work.

Last Wednesday, as the statue of Rosa Parks was unveiled in the U.S. Capitol building, people gathered across the street in front of the Supreme Court, to protest for the rights Parks vehemently fought for and are currently being debated in the Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder.

According to a broadcast report by USA Today, at issue are Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which stipulate that areas prone to prejudice and discrimination must request permission from the Justice Department before changing voting laws. While some legislators feel that this protocol is outdated and therefore unnecessary, others feel that these laws still offer valid protections.

Conservative members of the Supreme Court seem to be approaching the renewal of the Act with more skepticism than in past.  Justice Scalia suggested the reauthorizations by Congress could be attributed to what he called the “perpetuation of racial entitlement” (audio: just past 51min; transcript: page 47), and therefore will continue to be reinstated based off of this principle instead of the imminent threat of prejudice and discrimination that inspired the inclusion of the sections to begin with.

Other Conservative justices claim that the stipulations are directed at specific states, and are therefore unconstitutional.

Justice Breyer voiced his opinion on this, “Of course this is aimed at states. What do you think the Civil War was about? Of course it was aimed at treating some states differently than others.”

While it is true that we should not treat some states differently from other states, what I think these Supreme Court Justices fail to remember is our shared troubling history with voting. Do we not remember the Mississippi Three during the Freedom Summer? Do we not remember the march to Selma across the Edmund Pettus Bridge? Do we not remember the Ku Klux Klan and the discrimination of poll taxes and literacy tests?

While the picture of voting rights and voting in America is not as divisive and dangerous as it used to be, we should not forget the troubles of our recent past. Our country has come a long way to give everyone equal rights and equal protection under the law, and still has a way to go. We are on our way to perfecting our Union, but stripping minorities of protections at the poll is not a step in the right direction.

Perhaps the reason many Americans are against these Sections of the Voting Rights Act being repealed is due to the fact that Mississippi, the state from which this Supreme Court case originates from, only formally ratified the 13th amendment to the U.S. constitution abolishing slavery in February of this year. This is 148 years after it became the law! I feel that Rev. Al Sharpton best summed up the feelings of protesters when, on the steps on the Supreme Court, he said, “Last year the voter ID laws and the long lines and the ending early voting and the stopping Sunday to the polls showed that Jim Crow’s son James Crow Jr., Esquire is still trying to do what his daddy did, and that’s rob us from the right to vote.”

Where are we now?

By Devon Delfino, Staff Writer
@devondelfino

equality

Have we truly reached equality?/ PHOTO VIA Flickr user Tracy Apps

The U.S. Census Bureau announced Monday that it will remove the word ‘negro’ from its surveys, beginning with next year’s American Community Survey, according to the Associated Press.

For a 19-year-old whose only real connection to the civil rights movement is a textbook, it’s shocking that the term is still in use anywhere, let alone a government affiliated institution.

In 2010, however, the Bureau rejected the removal of the term on the grounds that a segment of the population still identified with it. The Bureau’s Director, Robert Groves, stated on his blog that over 50,000 individuals wrote the term ‘negro’ as their race in the 2000 census, many of which were under the age of 45.

Now here’s where the issue gets a bit complicated. The word is outdated, and came into use during the Jim Crow era and has been utilized by the Bureau for over a century. Why was it apparently still relevant just three years ago?

Some might say that this decision mirrors the great advancement the U.S. has made in its dedication to the eradication of racism. But what has changed?

Yes, our nation has made huge strides in the fight against racism, and looking back on our history of outright prejudice and segregation, today’s world looks much better. In the past 150  years, we’ve abolished slavery, ended segregation, illegalized various forms of racially-directed oppression and elected our first black president.

But is this decision to stop using the word ‘negro’ in a survey indicative of our progression away from our violent and racist past, or is it simply the result of a society trying to be being politically correct?

A closer look reveals that the wounds of our past lie just beneath the surface. With Huffington Post reporting on high school students dressing up as Ku Klux Klan members, and public officials donning blackface makeup, both within the past week, it becomes harder to see the progress the U.S. has made.

For a nation that prides itself on diversity and the ‘melting pot’ dynamic, there’s a considerable amount of racism out there. Whether it’s masked by humor, or it is in the form of outright hate crimes (which still number over 6,000 annually, according to the FBI), racism is still alive and well in our country. Progress has been made against it, but more is needed to fully eradicate the racist mentality.

I think that moving beyond the ‘color’ issue will take more than a simple update to the national vocabulary.

Young face, old message: Sen. Rubio’s response speech

By Ann Jacob, Staff Writer

With less pageantry and lots of speculation, after President Barack Obama addressed the nation in the State of the Union address last Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered the opposing party response. While the former is required by the constitution and given by every president since George Washington, the latter only became tradition in 1966. Is this tradition of granting the opposing party a platform to propose alternatives to the President’s plans effective? Should the response to the State of the Union be eliminated?

This year, the response Sen. Rubio gave has been affectionately dubbed, “Watergate,” for the sip of water the senator took towards the end of his speech. Many commentators have criticized the senator for not abiding by proper live broadcasting decorum, and rightly so.

However, what is even more significant than “Watergate” is the content of Rubio’s speech. The senator, who made headlines shortly before giving his speech for voting against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a “Senate bill [that] would provide services, like shelters and legal help, for abuse victims regardless of their sexual orientation or immigration status,” fell short on the high expectations many placed on him. He delivered a pre-planned speech that criticized Obama on policy goals on which they both agreed on or the president did not address. For instance, on Medicare, the senator called on the president to put out a new plan right after the president addressed Medicare in his address. Similarly, Rubio repeatedly urged the president for less spending and smaller government directly after the president urged Congress for more effective and efficient government. These instances might point to why the opposing party response in not an effective outlet to propose alternative ideas.

In fact, most of Rubio’s speech was similar to Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign stump speeches. With regards to energy policy, Rubio stuck to Romney’s stump speech about the need for more coal and oil. The only difference between the two politicians might be their backgrounds and life stories. However, even Rubio’s middle-class upbringing was scrutinized after the press learned that his house is on sale for $675,000. In addition, the second response to the State of the Union, given this year by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) only illustrated the fractured state of the Republican Party.

Among Boston University students, opinions of the speech were diverse.

Justin Kenney, a College of Arts and Science junior and member of the BU College Democrats, was skeptical of the content of Rubio’s speech.

“This is just a young face on an old message, and he was able to deliver that same message in a way that was more credible because of who he is and where he comes from,” said Kenney. “I don’t think the message itself was any different than what we’ve heard in the past four years. If you liked the old message, you loved what Senator Rubio had to say.”

However, for others the speech was moving and represented a new leader’s rise.

Sophie Miller, a College of Arts and Science junior and president of the BU College Republicans, advocated for Rubio’s content and delivery of the speech.

“I found it to be inspiring. He successfully pointed out the logistical flaws in President Obama’s proposals, particularly his economic policies and outlined better alternatives,” said Miller.

These contrasting perspectives of the speech are inevitable, and often lead to partisan bickering. However, the question remains: should the opposing party speech be eliminated?

Steve Kornacki, senior writer for Salon.com, proposed that the Chairs of both parties sit down and decide together to eliminate the response in an interview, he said on the Rachel Maddow Show.

I, for one, agree. The response does not boost the opposing party’s favorability. In fact, most times something goes wrong. Perhaps, Rubio should have taken some tips from PolicyMic.com prior to his speech and avoided providing SNL with comedic material.

Regardless of whether your attention was focused on “Watergate” or Michelle Obama’s lovely dress, the take away from Tuesday night hopefully was the bold and inspiring phrase the president repeated, “They deserve a vote!” This phrase not only got both parties in both chambers to stand and applaud for the many victims and families of gun violence, it demonstrated the power of the bully pulpit and the significance of the night. While the response to the State of the Union will continue to garner interest, it is in the interest of the opposing party to stand in solidarity with the president during the State of the Union address and eliminate the response.

Marco Rubio’s “Watergate” moment:

2013 State of the Union reaction tweets

By Langston Curtis, Social Media Staff

@Langston_Curtis

In his State of the Union Address tonight, Obama may have reignited the sense of optimism that lead him to be elected for 2 terms. A Twitter user reacts to the speech/IMAGE VIA Twitter and Storify user @GbengaOfemi

In his State of the Union Address tonight, Obama may have reignited a sense of optimism. A Twitter user reacts to the speech/IMAGE VIA Twitter and Storify user @GbengaOfemi

The nation tuned in tonight to watch President Obama deliver his 2013 State of the Union address. Here are some of the observations I made as a viewer.

President Obama appears to have regained some of that contagious optimism that catapulted him into the Presidency four years ago.

The President made an aggressive push for a variety of new liberal social service programs, such as a promise that all American children will be provided with a quality pre-school education, enticing fiscal conservatives with the results of a study showing that every dollar spent on a persons early childhood education will correlate to an additional seven dollars in economic productivity during adulthood.

A Twitter user's reaction to Obama's demands of Congress. IMAGE VIA Twitter and Storify user @AishaS

A Twitter user’s reaction to Obama’s demands of Congress. IMAGE VIA Twitter and Storify user @AishaS

President Obama made a passionate demand to the assembled legislators that they act on proposed federal gun control laws. His emotionally charged appeal, laced with the personal stories of parents who lost their daughter, and a police officer who was shot twelve times by a madman on a killing spree resonated as the most powerful moment of the evening. This storngly supported his demand to legislators to work together to at least attempt to stop such senseless violence.

Supporters and skeptics alike took to Twitter to offer their opinions. Apparently, in droves. According to Twitter’s Government and Politics Team, the Twitter-sphere exploded with 1.36 million tweets referencing the State of the Union and the speech’s official hashtag, #SOTU. What could all those people have to say about the Statue of the Union address? Well, I have compiled some interesting, funny and strange tweets for you here.

Twitter's Government and Politics team, tweeted this graphic showing the surge of SOTU-related tweets after the State of the Union address concluded/ IMAGE VIA Storify and Twitter user @gov

Twitter’s Government and Politics team tweeted this graphic showing the surge of SOTU-related tweets after the State of the Union address concluded/ IMAGE VIA Storify and Twitter user @gov

Talk of gun control dominates public discourse

By Brandon Lewis, Staff Writer
@Brandon_S_Lewis

Obama's gun control plan includes a ban on assault weapons/ PHOTO VIA golocalprov.com

Obama’s gun control plan includes a ban on assault weapons/ PHOTO VIA golocalprov.com

In the wake of the second deadliest shooting in American history, Americans are partaking in a heated debate over the future of gun control. Many are calling for legislation that would address the gun control issue head-on while others believe that little could be done to appease the national violence. Several days before his second inauguration, Barack Obama released his plan to reduce gun violence.

The plan outlines tighter gun license regulations, a ban of military-style assault weapons, making schools safer and increasing access to mental health services.

The passing of Obama’s plan falls in the hands of the Congress. We are not aware of their stance on the president’s gun control measure so in the meantime, here’s my opinion on the pros and cons of Obama’s proposal.
PROS

  • An assault weapons ban is important so the most destructive guns will no longer integrate itself in street culture. Semi-automatic firearms should not be in the hands of the public.
  • Obama’s implementation of school emergency management plans is necessary for preparing schools for emergency situations. Every school should have a set plan of action in the event of an emergency.
  • The accessibility to mental health services is needed. Many believe that the perpetrators behind gruesome shootings suffer from mental illness. I believe that some of the perpetrators are, and increasing mental health service accessibility may help to cut down on tragic and unnecessary violence.

CONS

  • If the assault weapons ban is passed, the government needs to find a suitable way to impose this legislation.
  • There are always people that believe their natural rights are being violated. In this case, some individuals will view the banning of certain guns as another threat to their liberty.
  • Many Americans also believe that guns are required for defending themselves in dangerous moments. When Congress considers Obama’s measure, self-defense will be brought up as a reason supporting the need for guns.

In my opinion, gun control has cemented itself as a prevalent issue in society and action needs to be taken. Obama said it best: “It’s not only the high-profile mass shootings that are of concern here, it’s also what happens on a day-in-day-out basis in places like Chicago or Philadelphia, where young people are victims of gun violence every single day.”