On Monday three men drove a SUV into a crowd in China's Tiananmen Square, setting it on fire and killing themselves and two others. Tianamen Square is China's political center in the heart of Beijing, and the site of the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations. It is unclear exactly what group is responsible for the attack however early signs point to the Uighurs, a Muslim minority group from the Xinjiang Province in the far Western Region of the country.
According to witnesses, the SUV was beeping its horn apparently warning bystanders... this appears to be more of the men trying to make a statement with their own deaths rather than an attack against civilians. China has long been accused to repressing non-Han Chinese ethnic groups, and the Uighurs feel that the government has targeted their group above all others.
Following the incident, tourists posted videos to Chinese social media but the government quickly hunted down these posts and videos and deleted them... within hours there were no visible signs that anything had happened.
Before the explosion of social media the job of school administrators was to make sure students behaved within the confines of the school and on school grounds... the rules have changed... or have they?
As students continue to express themselves on social media by taunting their classmates, venting about teachers, and sometimes offering cries for help, educators are struggling with where their authority should end. Some schools have begun to actively monitor social media sites with the aid of technology. There is software available which can comb through the millions of social media postings searching for key words and phrases in an effort to police what is being said. Such policing has raised some first amendment concerns however.
There are few limits to the first amendment, but one of those limits is that a person cannot, under the protection of free speech, threaten to hurt others or urge a third party to do so. But when school officials begin to reprimand students for posting offensive tweets or photos they have little authority over those posts unless there are direct threats made. For example in 2011 an Indiana court ruled that school officials had violated the constitution by disciplining students who had posted what the school deemed to be inappropriate pictures of themselves from a slumber party... the court said the school had no authority to do so, and they had violated the students right to free speech.
Imagine if the framers of the constitution had a Twitter handle or a Facebook page... I can only imagine the twitter beef these rebels and revolutionaries would have started...
On Saturday in Saudi Arabia a few dozen brave women took part in a protest against one of the most stubborn social codes anywhere in the world. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world which outlaws women from driving. But this past weekend, a few took it upon themselves to make a point.
In order to lessen the impact and to not appear to be directly challenging the authority of the Saudi King, only women who had valid driver's licences from other countries took part in the protest... they wanted to ensure people knew that this was in no way a revolution and that it would not turn into a revolution. Some drove to the store, some to work, others just for a ride to be seen. The organizers claim that they are simply looking for a normal way of life, and that this law and several others are unnecessarily restrictive of women.
The protest led to some supporters of the ban to respond. One prominent sheik named Mohammed al-Nujaimi said that women driving put Saudi society in great danger claiming it would ruin marriages, cause low birth rates, spread adultery, and cause more car accidents. He claimed that the educated have decided to ban women from driving because of the political, religious, and economic problems it would create.
Not all men in Saudi Arabia agree with this law however... Comedian and social activist Hisham Fageeh released a four minute video entitled, "No Woman, No Drive." A spoof on the Bob Marley classic.
I am fascinated by the power and connectivity of social media... especially Twitter. Twitter has helped to spread revolution in the Arab world, it has saved lives, helped loved ones reconnect, and even provided a forum for sworn enemies to exchange dialogue... something that they officially do not do. But in the Twitterverse, anything is possible.
Officially Israel and Hamas do not speak, have no diplomatic communication, and even fail to recognize each others' right to exist. On Tuesday however a direct exchange between Lt. Col. Peter Lerner of the Israeli army and a member of Hamas made world wide news. Col. Lerner tweeted, "The #IDF will continue to seek out those that attempt to undermine and defy our way of life. #TerrorDoesntPay" A few moments later a response was issued from @AlqassamBrigade which stated, "@LTCPeterLerner Al #Qassam Brigades will continue its holy way of struggle & #resistance till the liberation of whole #Palestine #Zionists"
The exchange was minor, but it showed that Twitter can defy tradition and even official international policy... and the connectivity often operates at astonishing rates.
Last night I tweeted at Pierce Morgan about a New York Times article which discussed gun violence. He retweeted, and I was almost instantly hit with dozens of messages from people expressing their views of gun control and the second amendment. If you were on Twitter last night, you were able to see my exchange between some of these people. I had some productive (and some unproductive) discussion with people from Arizona, California, and Florida... where else could such an exchange take place?
Twitter is the ultimate technological connective tool. Agree, disagree.... thoughts??
Pop superstar Rihanna is not exactly known for her tact or her willingness to be overly considerate of others... but has she finally gone too far?
This past week Rihanna was asked to leave Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque complex when she attempted to set up and pose for an unauthorized photo shoot at the major site of worship. She was dressed in a tight black jumpsuit and a head scarf with bright red lipstick. Not only did she pose for pictures, she also rolled around on the floor causing a spectacle at the mosque.
When authorities asked her to leave she did so with no fuss, but also with no apologies... she also immediately posted the photos to instagram... so much for cultural understanding. The mosque released a statement which reads that her behavior, "violates the moral codes of access to the mosque, or other visit regulations - such as taking inappropriate pictures, posing in ways that are improper in the context of sacred place, talking loudly, or eating - the violators are directed in a polite manner that reflects the civilization and tolerant attributes of Islam."
Ignorance is one thing, and though there can be little excuse for ignorance, willful disrespect for religious or cultural practices is intolerable... especially when one is a visitor to these types of places. It is this type of incident that causes conflict, strife, and hatred.
It does not matter if one is religious or not, it does not matter if one is Muslim or not... you don't have to be a member of a certain group, race, or ethnicity to show respect to that group.
Over the past year it has seemed that any news coming out of India has concerned violent stories of murder and rape... the most widely reported of which was that of a young woman brutally attacked on a public bus by a group of men in New Delhi. Because of these widely reported stories Indian men have been portrayed as the violent, sex crazed villains of Western Asia... Lavanya Sankaran of the New York Times however tackles that very notion.
She uses a seemingly small example to illustrate the other Indian male... the one whose actions and behaviors fail to make the news each and every day; and it is this Indian male that she argues, who needs to be more widely advertised in mass media.. While traveling on a flight from Kolkata to Bangalore she noticed that there was an unusually large amount of women on the flight with small children and infants. The babies were crying and the children were complaining. There were also a good number of young adult and middle aged businessmen traveling on that same flight. Instead of complaining about the noise, the men began to help the women... they held the children, helped feed them, burp them... anything they could do to make the flight easier for the women traveling alone.
Sankaran argues that far from the mass portrayal of Indian men, most are committed, cautions, intellectually curious, socially gregarious, devoted, loving family men. And the Indian female is also an image which needs updating. Indian women have been the prime ministers of the nation, they are business leaders, and organized crime lords... far from the image of a helpless female.
Oh, and on the flight Sankaran referenced for her story, the flight attendants were male, the pilot... female.
It seems the more we try to eliminate bullying in our society, the more pervasive it becomes. The more we try to protect the victims of bullying the stronger the bullies become. Victims are afraid to report the abuse for fear that it will get worse... and so they continue, day by day, being tormented physically and psychologically while those guilty of the attacks go on about their lives as if they are doing nothing wrong.
Last month, 12 year old Rebecca Sedwick killed herself after three years of relentless bullying at school and online by two girls from her school. Rebecca climbed a platform at an abandoned cement plant near her home in central Florida and jumped to her death. The investigation into the bullying was ongoing until yesterday when one of the accused bullies posted the following message on her Facebook account:
"Yes ik, I bullied Rebecca nd she killed her self but IDGAF!"
This message prompted local police to arrest Guadalupe Shaw and charge her with a felony in Rebecca's death. The authorities said they could not in good conscience leave this girl out there knowing she could be tormenting someone else. Shaw and her family both claim that her facebook account had been hacked... authorities claim that it is unlikely that this is the case based on the history of bullying from the accused.
At this point I could lecture you on the dangers of bullying, I could tell you that it's not cool to pick on people you feel are different or weak in some way, I could tell you that bullies are just weak insecure people lashing out at random... I could tell you all that, but you all have heard that before.
The fact of the matter is that these situations will continue to happen until you change it. The bullies are among you... they are your classmates, your friends, and maybe even yourselves. You need to call these people out on what they are doing, you need to defend what is right and point out what is wrong... you need to finally recognize that there is a right way to treat people and a wrong way...
Until you all stop being entertained by the actions of bullies, or looking the other way when you see or hear someone being bullied nothing will change. Adults can lecture you but they cannot change how you behave... only you have the power to do that.
Click Here for Dateline Hidden Camera Series on Bullying...
On Wednesday afternoon Congressional Republican leaders conceded defeat in the budget fight with President Obama which centered on the new Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare). The Speaker of the House John Boehner claimed that though the Republicans had "fought the good fight" they had lost and it was time to get the government back on track. Boehner also claimed that while he wouldn't block a vote to reopen the government, the fight would continue, albeit on a different front.
On Wednesday evening Republican Senator John McCain stated that this shutdown has hurt the Republican party and damaged the American people. He acknowledged that the shutdown was a Republican shutdown and claimed that his party would now have to learn from this process and get back to the business of helping the American people. Senator McCain made it known that he was no supporter of the President's signature health care bill and he would pursue ways to repeal it... legal ways as dictated by the constitution. He claimed that it was clear from the beginning that his colleagues in the House were foolish to think that they could de-fund a law by shutting down the government.
What, if anything, have you learned about the process of government throughout this process?
We have all heard it said that there is a strong connection between music and mathematics. Studies have proven that those who play at least one instrument usually score higher on standardized math tests. Recent empirical research now suggests music training may also be connected to success in other fields as well.
Joanne Lipman recently interviewed industry leaders from fields as diverse as business and marketing to the film industry and journalism... what they all have in common was music. They all claim that music helped them learn to focus, taught them discipline, allowed them to discover new ways of thinking and communicating, and even allowed them to problem solve. Other claimed that it made them see the value of working together on a project (an ensemble) while also showing them that at times they need to branch out and express their opinion and individuality (a solo).
Considering this, it is amazing that when budgets need to be cut, the music and arts are among the first programs to have their funding removed. Music programs along with the arts and sports are normally not seen as vital to the education process and are thus expendable....