OPINION: We’re already doomed to climate change

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

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Automobiles release a variety of pollutants which have been known to contribute to climate change. Photo credit: Ally Prusnofsky

With increasing talk of the importance of taking action to prevent climate change, environmental activism has made a resurgence. Even with this last-ditch effort to save the environment, the reality is that it is already too late, and at best we can attempt to alleviate the worst of it.

Climate change is best made analogous to a speeding car that has no brakes and is gradually accelerating toward a brick wall in the distance. Even if the world somehow managed to cease 100 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, because this planet-sized car has no brakes, it will still take a significant amount of time for the greenhouse gasses that we have already released to be naturally scrubbed from the atmosphere, or for the car to decelerate.

According to a recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the planet has 12 years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Surpassing this number by even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of catastrophic events, such as drought, floods, wildfires, extreme heat, food and water shortages, mass migrations and poverty for people worldwide.

The world is currently 1 degree Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels. However, headlines on this report such as “We have 12 years left to act on climate change, UN warns” from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, can be extremely misleading and give the implication that things may not be as grim as they actually are.

Despite many claiming that the media hypes up the danger of climate change, it actually significantly undersells the reality of climate change.

The U.N. report states that carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45 percent by 2030 to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius and come down to zero by 2050. This would require an unprecedented level of change to achieve, which seems very unlikely given the current global outlook.

According to a Yale University article, in Sept. 2016, the planet’s atmosphere broke a startling record of 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide year around. The significance of this number is that it has long served as a clear red line into a danger zone of climate change by climate scientists.

The last time that there was this much carbon in the air, over 2 million years ago, the sea levels were 80 feet higher than they are now. This is important considering the fact that about 40 percent of people in the world live within 100 kilometers of the coast, and that humans can’t breathe underwater.

Despite such a grim outlook, the public is largely uninformed on the reality of the situation. Matt Bershadsky, a sophomore psychology major, said that he believes it is possibly worse than most people believe.

“Even myself, I don’t think about climate change ever,” Bershadsky said. “Because it doesn’t seem as bad to me since I just don’t have the knowledge … that would be necessary to make a decision on it.”

With conflicting reports and studies, it can be difficult to understand the direction in which our planet is heading. While the planet may be in an irreversible path to a deteriorating environment, the best we can do now is make small efforts to slow it down.

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel

OPINION: The military-industrial complex is alive and well

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

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US soldiers march toward a CH-47 Chinook helicopter on on Sept. 4, 2003. Photo credit: Photo Courtesy of Staff Sgt. Kyle Davis

As U.S.-funded military operations in the Middle East escalate to unprecedented levels and the military-industrial complex continues to thrive, seemingly no one notices as the perpetual occupation recedes into the background of the new norm.

Fifty-eight years ago, on Jan 17, 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower first warned the nation about what he described as a threat to the democratic government, the military-industrial complex, and it seems almost no warning has rung truer since.

In discussing American military activity, it is important to note that according to the White House’s latest war report, the U.S. is currently militarily involved, or has unclassified operations, in the seven countries of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Niger.

The U.S.’s military involvement with Afghanistan recently entered its 18th year, the longest war in U.S. history, with U.S. commanders saying there’s no end date in sight. To put this into perspective, those born after the war began can now enlist in it.

Despite some wanting to minimize current U.S. military involvement, U.S.-funded military activity in the seven countries listed is actually increasing rather than decreasing.

According to Business Insider, the U.S. is on pace to bomb Afghanistan more than ever this year. “The total weapons deployed by manned and remotely piloted aircraft through May this year is 2,339, more than were dropped in both 2016 and 2015,” the article said.

Last year President Donald Trump said that the U.S. would increase its troop presence in Afghanistan to combat the resurgent Taliban, and according to the BBC, “the Taliban control more territory than at any point since the removal of their regime 17 years ago.” This recent report by the BBC also showed that civilian casualties are at an unprecedented level, with more than 10,000 civilians killed or injured in 2017.

While the New York Times recently stated that due to this high death toll, the Afghan and American governments decided to keep battlefield death tolls for Afghan security forces secret. This secrecy of activity has extended to strikes in Yemen as well, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Despite all of this, at a time when the U.S. is more militarily involved in the Middle East than ever before, it seems as though almost no one is talking about it, or as if most people have simply forgotten that we are even at war.

The most chilling example of this is a tweet by a Reuters foreign policy correspondent showing exactly four journalists in a sea of empty chairs at a recent Pentagon briefing on Afghanistan.

Perhaps it is time that we reconsider the direction, and general philosophy of war, in which we have trudged down for the last two decades. Perhaps the current strategy of escalation and the justification for perpetual occupation in the name of an un-winnable “war on terror” is not the right one. Perhaps it is time we end the military-industrial complex that has ravaged the Middle East.

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel

OPINION: Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest is patriotic

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

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There is nothing more American than protesting for what’s right and to take a stand against injustice. Photo credit: Photo Courtesy Mike Morbeck

Though protest may not always be favored, there is nothing more American, or patriotic, than exposing yourself to the risks that come with fighting for your rights.

With Nike’s recent ad featuring the controversial NFL football player, Colin Kaepernick, the issue of his kneeling in protest during the national anthem has been propelled into the spotlight once again.

Challenging Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Beto O’Rourke recently exposed this perspective in a viral video posted on Twitter by NowThis News.

O’Rourke iterates that not only were the freedoms we enjoy as Americans purchased by those in uniform, but also by those who knowingly risked life and limb in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Those who died were beaten within an inch of their lives, punched and spat upon for the crime of trying to be a man or woman in this country and fought to secure better rights for fellow Americans.

Today, these players peacefully and nonviolently take a knee at football games to point out that black men, black teenagers and black children are being killed at an alarming level, often by members of law enforcement without accountability or justice.

“Non-violently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it,” O’Rourke said. “I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere or any place.”

Protest by its own nature is meant to be controversial and force as many people as possible to consider an issue that they otherwise would have ignored. Considering the massive national attention and controversy surrounding the protests, I would say the protests have been largely successful in their purpose.

It is also worth noting that while Kaepernick originally sat during the anthem, a compromise was made after speaking to a veteran and asserting his desire for change and an unwillingness to stand for the flag of a country that oppressed black people and people of color. According to NPR, U.S. Army special forces veteran Nate Boyer advised Kaepernick to instead take a knee during the anthem as a sign of respect.

Kaepernick has also received support from numerous military veterans in his protest, and several even published an open letter of support in Medium.

“Far from disrespecting our troops, there is no finer form of appreciation for our sacrifice than for Americans to enthusiastically exercise their freedom of speech,” the letter states.

The letter also references an analysis by the Washington Post, that found that black people in America are two and a half times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white Americans. According to The Undefeated, U.S. Army veteran Richard Allen Smith, who was a signer to the letter, said politicians and corporations often use the military and its servicemen and women as a prop to cloak themselves in credibility.

We must transform the attitude surrounding those who peacefully fight to better the nation. Those who do, do so out of a deep patriotic devotion to the nation and its peoples, and an understanding of its great potential — not out of a disrespect for it.

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel

SATIRE: Students spontaneously combusting on way to class

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

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comic credit: Paulette Juieng

With temperatures reaching into the 90’s in the previous weeks, many students have been suffering the consequences, with some being worse than others.

Amid these soaring temperatures, there have been multiple reports of students spontaneously combusting while walking to class. Others have allegedly melted into the sidewalk. Some students who have turned to ash, however, have found this to be a much-needed relief from the burden of classes.

“At first I was really bummed out about the whole ‘turning to ash’ thing. Then I realized this meant I wouldn’t have to work on my paper due next week,” said one pile of ash.

However, various KSU departments have warned students that spontaneous combustion does not count as an excused absence.

According to local college valley girl, Molly Banks, “It’s like literally hotter than the sun. I’m like totes dying right now.” While a local contrarian, Joe Head, said, “This is baby stuff. I love showing up to class dripping in sweat.”

There have been additional reports of a portal to the eternal flames of the underworld ripping open on the campus green and devouring the souls of the weak.

Several demon hell-spawns have also leaked from the portal and are allegedly taking up any additional campus parking and assigning unreasonably long research papers.

Some students have taken to beating the heat by using a stick, while others have, instead, suggested a more diplomatic approach of opening negotiations with it and establishing a mutual compromise.

The Trump administration, however, has reversed a former policy of peaceful relations with our closest star and made numerous tweets threatening to launch a ballistic missile strike at the Sun. Trump goes on to say that there is finally a clear justification for the funding of a space force.

Some students have reportedly enjoyed the spa-quality relaxation of their classrooms becoming temporary saunas. As a result, KSU has decided to add an additional $135 “spa fee” to next year’s tuition for the luxury.

These reports of spontaneous combustion amid the heat wave have some students suggesting that this is clear evidence of climate change and the end of times.

When the Sentinel staff attempted to contact climate scientists about this issue, one local scientist, George Lahm said, “Get out of my office! How did you get in here and why are you naked?”

However, a number of climate change skeptics, such as Alex Scones from “InfolessWars,” have questioned this suggestion. “These students that are spontaneously combusting into ash are clearly just crisis actors,” Scones said. “If climate change is real, why are there still frozen pizzas?”

Stay cool out there Kennesaw, but not too cool for school or you might end up melting in the gutter when you can’t afford healthcare!

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel

Press On: Journalism after the Gazette shooting

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

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After the shooting at the Capital Gazette, many are questioning the future of journalism. Photo credit: Kevin Barrett

After receiving the jolting news of the Capital Gazette shooting that left five journalists dead last week, many have questioned what this event means for freedom of the press in the U.S.

Five employees of The Capital Gazette — Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith — were killed Thursday, June 28, after gunman Jarrod Ramos entered the office and opened fire. Ramos was charged with five counts of first degree murder.

According to The Hill, the gunman had a poor relationship with the paper and attempted to sue the paper for defamation.

In recent years the lifeblood of any democracy, the fourth estate — the free press —has increasingly come under attack. Many journalists, including the Sentinel staff, have come to fear the unwarranted risks of the profession, even in their own town.

“This was an attack on the press,” Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said following the attack. “It was an attack on freedom of speech. It’s just as important as any other tragedy.”

According to the Washington Post, 2017 was the most dangerous year ever for journalists, and data published by press freedom organizations indicate that the threats faced by journalists worldwide are only increasing.

There has been increasing political pressure on journalists in the U.S. with President Donald Trump often referring to the press as “the enemy of the people.”

Unfortunately, this phrase has a very long and horrific pedigree that can be found in both the French Terror and Soviet Terror. Thousands of people have been executed as “enemies of the people.” Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post questioned what role this type of political atmosphere may have played in the actions of the Capital Gazette shooter.

Julia McIntosh, a journalism major at KSU, says that while the attack has made her more fearful of the dangers to journalists, she is not deterred.

“It’s made me more scared to be a journalist,” McIntosh said. “I’m never going to be scared to tell stories for those in need.”

In the days following the shooting, the Capital Gazette also received death threats and emails from people they don’t know celebrating their loss. In a letter released by the Capital Gazette staff said, “We won’t forget being called an enemy of the people. No, we won’t forget that. Because exposing evil, shining light on wrongs and fighting injustice is what we do.”

In the age of growing political polarization and nationwide accusations of media, we must not forget the importance and sacrifice of journalists. Although “facts” and well-vetted sources are the cornerstone of quality journalism, and it is the duty of the people to call out errors or mistakes that are made, we have grown to be a completely intolerant people. People sit comfortably behind a computer and hurl insults or belittle the sacrifice of journalists who work long hours for very little pay, and who sometimes pay a price too high for it.

Journalism is constantly changing, and we as journalists must always adapt. We must never forget the sacrifice and bravery of the journalists who fight to bring truth to light.

Press on.

The Sentinel staff would like to honor those killed in the attack: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, Wendi Winters.

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel

Opinion: College health education benefits everyone

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

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“Health education is an essential component of general education for students, as well as a vital component in addressing America’s growing health problems.” Photo credit: Killian Grina

Health education is not only an essential component of general education for students at Kennesaw State but is also vital in addressing America’s growing health problems.

Outside of the benefits of positive health habits on the individual student level, there are numerous reasons to support the mandatory Foundations of Healthy Living, WELL 1000, course.

Alongside the physical benefits of habits taught in health classes, there is increasing evidence to suggest that the habits may also improve mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, research shows that exercise can help alleviate long-term depression and anxiety, and a 2017 study by the Minnesota Department of Health found that students who were physically fit were much more likely to score better on state standardized tests.

Additionally, considering the increased sexual activity of students, a quality sexual education, like that given in KSU health courses, is likely to be useful for students, especially among those coming from more sexually repressive households.

Julia Wagner, an apparel and textiles sophomore at KSU, said she feels that the goal setting and goal-oriented nature of the KSU health course is a very important thing for students to learn.

“In order to get anywhere in life, you gotta have goals for yourself,” Wagner said. “I think the class does a good job at teaching that.”

On the broader scale, however, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of childhood obesity have more than tripled since the 1970s. In light of this growing trend, proper health education is more important today than ever before. Studies have shown that parents are one of the main influences when it comes to shaping their children’s decisions in relation to healthy eating.

For many students, college may be their first introduction to healthier habits. If we ever hope to reverse the rising rates of obesity nationally, proper health and nutritional education is an important component of the fight.

Connor Crocco, a KSU business administration freshman, said that he supports required health classes because of their ability to benefit anyone regardless of their personal fitness level.

“The required health class is definitely beneficial, and I would definitely keep it just because of the benefits it gives people who need it most,” Crocco said. “But even if you are fit, you can still learn stuff. It teaches you a healthier lifestyle in general.”

The rising rate of obesity nationally impacts everyone due to the increased healthcare expenditures nationally. A 2018 study by Cornell University found that the percent of U.S. national medical expenditures devoted to treating obesity-related illness in adults has risen by 29 percent from 2001-2015.

By requiring students to take WELL 1000, KSU ensures students are prepared to take care of themselves and aid in battling national health problems.

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel

Opinion H2H: Take the fast road to success with summer classes

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

Students should take advantage of summer classes to advance their career, save money and exercise their brains.

Graduating on-time, or early, can be a strong indicator to future employers that you are organized and have a solid work ethic. As fun as college can be, nobody wants to be the one that took an excessive number of years to complete a degree.

Although students might not opt to take classes every summer, summer classes can be an amazingly useful tool if they are looking to finish quicker.

Summer classes also condense the credit for an entire normal semester’s worth of work into six short weeks of dedicated work. For many, this may be a major benefit that is akin to ripping off the Band-Aid now, rather than slowly dragging out the pain over several months. Students should really treat their time as even more valuable than money.

Depending on your situation, summer classes can also save a tremendous amount of money that would otherwise be spent on another full semester of rent and living expenses. If you are staying at your own place, you are well aware of how rent and living expenses tend to be among your highest expenses. Instead of taking the slow road to success, summer classes let you save money for your future, or an epic travel destination once you graduate.

Everyone’s situation is different, but for KSU student Brandon Lee, a junior in exercise science major and a former Marine, it is much cheaper in the long run for him to take summer classes.

“I decided to take summer classes since I get the GI bill, which basically pays my rent for now while I’m in school and work part-time,” Lee said. “If I am not a full-time student, then I don’t get the full housing allowance.”

Besides all of the time and money that is saved, the cognitive benefits of taking summer classes should also be taken into account. Rather than letting your brain turn to mush over the summer, keep your mind sharp by taking a couple of classes. Since you’ll already be in the routine of hitting the books, there will be less of an initially reluctant phase when the fall semester starts.

In addition, taking one or two courses over the summer, as opposed to juggling four to six subjects in a normal semester, will allow students to better absorb the material and make the course much more enjoyable.

Class sizes also tend to be smaller, and, according to research from the National Education Association, students in smaller classes not only perform better when compared to their peers in larger classes but tend to score higher on standardized tests as well.

In the end, everyone has a different style that works best for them, but for many students, summer classes can be a major godsend for a variety of different reasons.

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel 

Opinion: The distracted driving bill could save lives

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

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The Distracted Driving Bill prohibits drivers from holding their phones while behind the wheel Photo credit: Alison Warren

House Bill 673, designed to prohibit motorists from holding their phones while driving, would prevent the deaths of many Georgians and tackle the selfish desire to use a phone while driving if signed into law.

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, traffic fatalities have risen by nearly a third since 2014, and, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, some safety advocates attribute the rise to our constant addiction to cell phones. In the last year alone, 1,550 people died in Georgia due to distracted driving.

Many opponents of the bill say that police should simply better enforce the existing texting while driving ban to address this issue. However, there are technical legal barriers to police enforcing the existing law.

According to the AJC, it’s difficult for many officers to tell if someone is texting or just dialing a phone number, which is legal under the current law. Even if someone is texting while driving, all they have to do is claim to have been making a call instead of texting. This unenforceable middle ground simply does not suffice.

Like many students, I still find myself making excuses to handle my phone while driving in order change the song, put an address into my navigation or dial a phone number. I am more easily able to make excuses to say that it is not as dangerous because it is only for “one quick second.” But, in reality, all it takes is one quick second to end a life.

According to a 2017 report by the National Traffic Law Center, “Studies have shown the overall crash risk increases 3.6 times over model driving when a driver interacts with a handheld device.”

If all hand-held use of your cell phone while driving was illegal, it would be easier for people to make the mental switch in ruling out any cell phone use while driving. With 15 states having already adopted such laws, and 13 of them seeing a substantial decrease in traffic fatalities within just two years, the evidence speaks for itself.

Furthermore, it seems extremely morally difficult for anyone to justify the selfish desire to use their cell phone while driving when those countering the argument are people like Mary Carol Harsch, whose husband was struck and killed by a motorist talking on his phone.

In an interview with the AJC, Harsch said that she feels his life was worth more than the convenience of talking while driving.

“I would love to see HB 673 passed, because it’s past time for us to do something in Georgia to make our roadways safer,” Harsch said.

There is no excuse to hold your cell phone while driving when there are now a number of affordable hands-free driving devices and features such as voice-to-text. Your life is worth more than a phone call.

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel  

Opinion: Leave the voting age alone

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

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“A 2006 study by the Political Studies Association said that 16 and 17-year olds are not as mature as other voters when the voting age is at 18.” Photo credit: Abbie Bythewood

Lowering the voting age will give greater voting power to the older generation as those younger than 18 are not sufficiently mature and will vote in line with their parents.

In 1971, the 26th amendment to the Constitution was ratified, establishing 18 as the minimum voting age for both state and federal elections. Although the proposal was first made in Congress in 1942, it was not until a combination of factors, including the political pressures of the Vietnam draft, that the proposal gained the necessary political backing to become law.

The argument of “Old enough to go to war, old enough to vote,” feels far more logically sound and emotionally convincing than any argument given in support of lowering the voting age to 16.

A 2006 study by the Political Studies Association said that 16 and 17-year olds are not as mature as other voters when the voting age is at 18. Furthermore, despite some arguing that such age differences are evened out when 16-year olds are given the right to vote, a 2013 study in the Journal of Electoral Studies found that even when the voting age is lowered to 16, there is no evidence to indicate that adolescent maturity levels go up.

When I think back to my politics at the age of 16, despite having minor differences on some issues, I was still heavily influenced by living with my parents. It was not until I graduated, moved out and began college that I truly began to think for myself about what I wanted out of the world.

The simple life experiences of being forced to survive on your own, the societal expectations to be an adult crashing down on you and the drastic change in your control of social influences changes you. In the social atmosphere of college, one is exposed to all new ways of thinking, opinion and evidence that previously may have been restricted. This dramatic shift often propels people into entire new frames of mind.

The time period of 16 to 18-years old seems to be a very hectic period politically, and attitudes are usually not fully developed. A 2005 Gallup Youth Survey, which asked 13 to 17-year olds to compare their social and political views with those of their parents found that 71 percent say their social and political ideology is similar to their parents.

According to an article by Jenny Diamond Cheng, interest in improving the political participation of young adults would be far better focused on eliminating barriers to voting, such as residency requirements that exclude college students, abolishing rigorous voter ID laws that disfavor young or mobile voters and allowing for same-day voter registration. These are better solutions.