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Last updateTue, 20 Jun 2017 11pm

Politics

Volume 86 (Fall 2014 - Spring 2015)

The Floor is Yours, Mr. Johnson | Brandon Johnson's Senior Goodbye

Me 1Rather than wasting your time reading something that is so personal to me, let me use some of this space for some things I wish I knew when I was an 18. These are some tidbits of information I’ve picked up along my Monmouth journey. While I’m still “just a kid” by most accounts, these are some things that have had the biggest impact on who I am.

Comfort Zones

If you ask your doctor, physician, dentist or any other health professional, they can probably runoff a list of things that are bad for you. I, for one, have an insatiable sweet tooth, with a particular fondness for Snickers. But for all the harm the preservative packed goodies I munch on could do, it’s nothing compared to my greatest detriment: my comfort zone.

Everyone has a comfort zone. It may manifest itself in a variety of forms but it’s there. For some that means binge watching Netflix wrapped in the world’s softest blanket, while for others it might be dozing off in the back of the class. Regardless of shape or form, recognizing my comfort zone was among the best pieces of advice I received during my tenure at Monmouth.

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Moot Court Succeeds at National Invitation Tournament

Moot CourtThe University’s moot court program finished its second year strong this past weekend with the two-student team of Nick Whittaker and Joe Talafous representing the Hawk spirit at the 2015 National Invitational Tournament hosted by the University of Chicago. 

Based on their performance in the fall semester at a regional tournament in Iowa City, Whittaker and Talafous were invited to this national tournament and showcased their skills of oral advocacy, rhetoric and persuasive argumentation to a panel of judges over three rounds.  

They competed in an incredibly strong field of 20 teams, including teams from universities such as Loyola University – Chicago, Loras College, Eastern Illinois University, Notre Dame College, the University of St. Thomas in Canada, Merrimack College, the University of North Texas and the University of Chicago.  

The Monmouth team managed to win one ballot by 35 points (on a 100-point scale) in the third round against one of the advancing teams and lost by only two points on two other separate ballots in round two and only five points on one ballot in the first round.  

The Monmouth moot court hawks kept it incredibly close in a very competitive field and ended the 2014-2015 competition season on a high note, going into the next year of tournaments energized and ready. 

A round of congratulations goes to all moot court student-teams who represented Monmouth with pride this academic year: Ashley Gucker and Samah Khalifa; Mike Hamilton and Dan Roman; and Angela Ryan and Harmony Bailey.  

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Transgender Community Responds to Bruce Jenner

When Bruce Jenner revealed to Diane Sawyer what many had already speculated - that the 1976 Olympic champion now publicly identifies as a woman - nearly 17 million people were watching.

It was a groundbreaking event for the athlete turned reality star, and for an estimated 700,000 transgender Americans.

“It’s become a national teachable moment,” said Mara Keisling, executive director for the Washington, D.C.-based National Center for Transgender Equality. “Somebody made us realize we weren’t alone.”

During the two-hour interview on ABC’s “20/20,” an initially nervous and teary Jenner told Sawyer, “For all intents and purposes, I am a woman.”

The show scored a 5.2 rating about four times higher than is typical among viewers in the 18-to-49 age group on a Friday night, according to figures from Nielsen.

On social media, the interview elicited a largely positive reaction. “All of us deserve the right to be loved for who we are. Bravo #BruceJenner,” tweeted Oprah Winfrey. Public figures from Billie Jean King to Lady Gaga posted on Twitter and Facebook to show their support.

Talk show host Montel Williams, a self-proclaimed conservative, voiced his support on Facebook despite heavy criticism from some of his fans. “Don’t like my support of Bruce Jenner or of #lgbt individuals broadly?” he wrote. “No one is forcing you to be here.”

Among those who took issue was talk show host Wendy Williams, who referred to Jenner as a “fame whore” ahead of the Sawyer interview. More than a few negative tweets with religious overtones following the show called Jenner an “abomination.”

Given Jenner’s recent role as the befuddled husband on the reality blockbuster show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” many in transgender circles and beyond expressed concern that the public coming out would be viewed as a publicity stunt, undermining a recent swell of otherwise-humanizing television dramas and news regarding their community. Jenner also revealed Friday that a docu-series chronicling his life as a transgender woman will premiere on E! on July 26.

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Michigan Catholic Priest Tells Parishioners to Pack Heat

Reverend FrideAn Ann Arbor, Mich., Catholic priest has urged his parishioners to arm themselves and attend classes at Christ the King parish to earn a concealed pistol license (CPL).

In a letter sent to Christ the King parishioners recently, the Rev. Edward Fride explained why he believed it was necessary to get concealed pistol licenses because of recent crime in the area. During a Palm Sunday mass last month, Fride announced that the parish would be holding the CPL class.

When some parishioners questioned the decision, Fride sent out a pro-gun letter titled “We’re not in Mayberry Anymore, Toto” a reference to the 1960s-era Andy Griffith Show and its portrayal of a fictional North Carolina town, as well as Dorothy’s dog from the “Wizard of Oz.”

“It is very common for Christians to simply assume that they live in Mayberry, trusting that because they know the Lord Jesus, everything will always be fine and nothing bad can happen to them and their families,” Fride wrote.

“How to balance faith, reality, prudence, and trust is one of those critical questions that we struggle with all our lives. Pretending we are in Mayberry, while we are clearly not, can have very negative consequences for ourselves and those we love, especially those we have a responsibility to protect. If we are not in Mayberry, is there a real threat?”

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University Hosts 4th Interdisciplinary Conference on Race

Veit IntroStudents, faculty and scholars gathered in Magill Commons Club for the 4th Biennial Interdisciplinary Conference on Race, hearing national and international researchers present their papers from April 16-18.

Co-chaired by  Lecturer of history and anthropoloy, Hettie V. Williams and Dr. Richard Veit, Chair of the history and anthropology department, the conference’s theme was “The Criminalization of Race in History and Global Societies, Social Activism and Equal Justice.” 

The conference began with an introduction by Veit and Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Laura Moriarty, who lauded the conference for its continual growth. Veit particularly said, “Professor Hettie Williams, she’s a distinguished colleague and she’s the organizer and energizer bunny behind this conference, and this is a huge thing to pull together,” said Moriarty.

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Debate: Opposing the RFRA in Indiana

RFRA Debate picThe Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that has been causing a stir in Indiana and Louisiana, among other states, has its roots in a 1990 Supreme Court case in which a Native American man lost his job after testing positive for a drug. Alfred Smith, a resident of Oregon, used peyote (a hallucinogenic) as part of a religious ceremony and was fired from his job as a counselor at a drug rehabilitation clinic. When Smith applied for unemployment he was denied because his dismissal from work was deemed misconduct.

In 1993, the Clinton Administration signed the original RFRA, which holds that the government should act in the “least restrictive” way when dealing with religion, according to a 1993 New York Times article. Furthermore, the law professed that government could only act when it has a “compelling interest” in intervention.

Fast-forward 22 years and the Indiana legislature passed a similar measure that states “A governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability,” according to National Public Radio (NPR).

Where the Indiana law takes a turn for the worse is its definition of “person,” which the federal law left for interpretation. According to NPR, the Indy bill holds persons to include individuals, organizations, religious groups, partnerships, corporations, firms or any other entity that “may sue or be sued.”

This acknowledgement reopens the gash that was infected by the Hobby Lobby case. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that for-profit companies, “composed of individuals,” could prevent cost-free access to contraception if it runs against the religious principles of said company, according to Oyez.org, a Supreme Court archive hosted by Chicago-Kent College of Law.

The Hobby Lobby scenario, however, was a blessing compared to the Indiana bill, as the ruling was limited to guaranteed contraception. Interpretation of the Hoosier state legislation would allow for entities to refuse service to individuals who they view as acting contrary to their beliefs, on whatever grounds they feel necessary. This means that gay and lesbian couples, people of different faiths, or any number of grounds for prejudice could complicate individuals receiving services.

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Changing Black Demographic

Changing Black DemographicOne in three black residents in Miami is now an immigrant, a reflection of a nationwide trend that shows immigrants making up a rising share of the country’s black population, according to a new Pew Research Center study.

Perhaps not surprising, most of the black migration in Miami and across the country has come from the Caribbean, where President Barack Obama traveled this week on the first presidential visit to Jamaica in three decades.

“We are not just nations, we’re also neighbors,” Obama told the enthusiastic crowd at the University of West Indies in Jamaica. “Tens of millions of Americans are bound to the Caribbean and the Americas through ties of commerce, but also ties of kin. More than 1 million Americans trace their ancestry to Jamaica.”

The number of black immigrants in the United States has more than quadrupled since 1980, and the growth is expected to continue. The Census Bureau projects that by 2060, 16.5 percent of U.S. blacks will be immigrants. In all, there are 3.8 million black immigrants in the country today, and that number is expected to reach 11.9 million by 2060.

The Miami metropolitan area has the largest share of black immigrants. Thirty four percent of Miami’s black population are immigrants compared to 28 percent in New York and 15 percent in Washington.

More than 28,000 native-born Jamaicans live in Miami-Dade County. But it’s not the greatest source of black immigrants. That honor goes to Haiti - with more than 70,000 residents - which accounts for nearly half of the black immigrant population in the Miami metro area.

The Pew study notes that most of the nation’s 40 million U.S. -born blacks are descendants of slaves. But when slavery was made illegal, the flow of black people in the United States “dropped to a trickle” of Caribbean immigrants, the report found. The modern wave of black immigration was set off by various immigration laws, including those that sought to increase the number of immigrants from underrepresented countries.

Much of the recent growth has been driven by African nations. Africans now make up 36 percent of the total foreign-born black population compared to just 7 percent in 1980.

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Alaskan Endangerment

The Alaska yellow cedar edged one step closer to being listed as a threatened or endangered species after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the tree may warrant such protection because of the ravages of climate change.

The move was applauded by environmentalists while a timber industry trade group called it “pretty silly.”

If the conifer is listed, it would become the first tree in Alaska to be protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The cedar is found from southeast Alaska down to Northern California.

“It’s a symbol of what our actions are doing to the climate,” said Rebecca Noblin, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Alaska director. “The biggest threat is climate change. They’re also logged in the Tongass National Forest.”

Noblin said the tree has special adaptations that allow it to live in “places that a lot of other trees can’t live.” In winter, its shallow root system needs snow for insulation from the cold. In years with little snowfall _ including 2014 _ the roots are in danger of freezing.

The center was one of four groups that petitioned the federal government to add the tree to the endangered species list. According to the organizations, the warming climate is causing suitable habitat for the Alaska yellow cedar to disappear.

“More than 600,000 acres of dead yellow cedar forests are already readily visible from the air,” the group said in a written statement. “If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at their current rates, the tree will be driven to extinction.”

But Owen Graham, Executive Director of the Alaska Forest Association, disputed the conservation groups’ characterization of the tree’s health. His organization represents the timber industry, and he said Friday that “the whole idea of listing the yellow cedar as an endangered species is pretty silly. It’s certainly not endangered.”

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Debate: Defending the RFRA in Indiana

Hobby LobbyWhen asked about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) signed and passed into law by Indiana Governor, Mike Pence, the owners of a small pizza shop, Memories Pizza, said that they think anyone can believe whatever they want, but they are a Christian establishment and wouldn’t be catering to gay weddings. In fact, the pizza shop has actually never catered to any weddings before. Now the small business has been forced to shut its doors doueto hatred, threats, and harassment from those who oppose the law. 

So, are the owners of the pizzeria intolerant because they do not want to participate in a gay wedding, or are the opponents of the RFRA law intolerant for forcing the business to shut down temporarily because of its hatred, threats and harassment? 

The opposition of the law has been shown by numerous celebrities, over forty companies, and even multiple state and local governments. They are showing opposition to the law by “boycotting Indiana” which has become a popular hash tag on Twitter. They are withdrawing from the state by cancelling business and travel to the whole state. According to the Washington Post, the company Angie’s List withdrew to expand its “Ford Building Project” until further notice, and the company Salesforce has cancelled programs that require its customers and employees to travel to Indiana. The Governor of Connecticut, Dan Malloy, signed an executive order prohibiting state funded travel to Indiana. New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, asked state agencies, departments, boards, and commissions to bar publicly funded travel to Indiana that isn’t essential. The band Wilco cancelled a show that was scheduled to play in Indianapolis. 

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Indian-Americans Rise in Politics in California

DalipSinghSaundIn a stairway just off the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Ami Bera walks past a portrait nearly every day of the late Rep. Dalip Singh Saund, a Democrat from California elected in 1956 and the first Indian-American (in fact, the first Asian-American) to serve in Congress.

And while their ranks in Congress have not swollen, Indian-Americans have been making political inroads, from city councils to state capitols. One is even flirting with running for president.

“We certainly are looking at how to get Indian-Americans more engaged in politics,” said Bera, a Sacramento County physician and the sole Indian-American in Congress. “They should think about running for office.”

Asian-Americans, which include Indian-Americans, are the fastest growing demographic group in the U.S., according to Pew Research Center.

Nearly 600,000 of the country’s 3.1 million Indian-Americans live in California, including a number of notable elected officials. Besides Bera, who was born in Los Angeles to immigrant parents, they include state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who could become the first Indian-American elected to the U.S. Senate.

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The Affordable Care Act: Is it Working?

Florio Healthcare Panel DiscussionNearly five years to the day after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the effects of the legislation “have yet to be determined,” according to various members of a panel of top New Jersey healthcare administrators. 

Among the panelists invited to Monmouth to discuss the policy’s effects on NJ were: two healthcare executives; Meridian Health CEO John Lloyd; Monmouth Medical Center CEO Frank Vozos; and NJ Association of Health Plans President Wardell Sanders. Former NJ Governor and Monmouth University’s current Public Servant in Residence, James Florio, who passed a similar salvo of health and welfare reforms during his tenure as governor, rounded out the panel.

The event was sponsored by the Monmouth University Polling Institute, Marjorie K. Unterberg School of Nursing and Health Studies, and the Political Science Club. Dr. Kathryn Fleming, a specialist professor of nursing administration, and Dr. Stephen Chapman assistant professor of political science, served as moderators. 

Director of the Polling Institute, Patrick Murray, opened the discussion by announcing the results of one of the institute’s latest polls: 45 percent of New Jerseyans support the law while 46 percent oppose it.

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