Category Archives: Columns

One Country, Two Systems

By Acadia Otlowski

Hong Kong is in turmoil following protests Sunday night that have finally boiled over after tensions have built all summer.

The recent protests are a result of Beijing’s controversial plan, which would allow citizens to vote for their representatives, but would restrict candidates to those approved by a committee. Politicians opposed to the plan say that pro-Beijing representatives dominate the committee.

Students led by Occupy Central and Scholarism, pro-democracy groups, have been peacefully protesting all week, and in essence shutting down a large part of the city. This came to a head Sunday night when police began using force on the protesters, including pepper spray and tear gas.

Hong Kong is technically part of China, but it operates under a different set of rules than the rest of the country. Not only is the press free, but also protests are allowed. The Chinese government justifies this through the phrase, “One country, two systems.”

In 2013, I visited both Mainland China and Hong Kong through a study abroad program at CCSU. Visiting both on the same trip really defined the sharp contrast between the two systems.

In Beijing, the government heavily controlled the newspapers. The newspapers praised it excessively. But in Hong Kong, the newspapers were more similar to our own. We visited CNN Hong Kong and found it to run similarly to a news station in our country.

In Hong Kong, we could access all of our social media, while in mainstream China we could not. But even with all of these differences, it was clear that the system was tenuous at best.

Chinese citizens had to get special passes to Hong Kong, which our hosts from the mainland failed to acquire before our arrival. But imagine being a Chinese citizen going to Hong Kong for the first time. Imagine seeing the apparent freedom of the people living there and then going back to Mainland China.

Also, imagine being a citizen of Hong Kong, with free and open access to the Internet, and not being able to participate in the same sort of democracy that is displayed in a lot of the rest of the world.

That would make me protest too.

China has a decision to make. A country can’t have two systems — one “free” and one heavily restricted.

This causes internal turmoil like the events that transpired weekend, which according to Occupy Central, was only a precursor to the larger Oct. 1 event, which will have occurred by the time this article is published.

It seems Hong Kong is being offered a sort of pseudo-democracy in place of a real one. While this could work if it were being implemented in a place like Mainland China, this bait-and-switch tactic will not fly with the residents of Hong Kong.

They know something better is out there. They’ve seen it.
The people of Hong Kong have been watching. They have seen protests around the world. They also interact with Western democracies on a regular basis.

It will be interesting to see how Mainland China will react to further protests. They can either crack down, wherein the populous of Hong Kong will lose all hopes of democracy, or procure further freedoms.

The implications of this will be global, because they will affect the mainland as well.

Farewell Captain

by Sean Begin

The very first time I watched baseball was in 1998. It was the first sport I ever got into. No one in my family had any interest in it, my curiosity was piqued by a family friend.

So when I decided to pick a team to root for, the decision was easy. It was ’98. The Yankees were the best team in baseball all season long. They couldn’t stop winning. As a nine-year-old, that was reason enough for me to root for them.

“Who roots for a loser?” said nine-year-old me.

Fast forward to Sunday, when Derek Jeter swung a bat for the last time: an infield chopper to third that resulted in a single and an RBI. Quite Jeter-ian, to borrow the phrase.

I have never known a Yankees team without Derek Jeter. I’ve been spoiled, really, getting to watch him play. I imagine it’s how people felt watching Ted Williams or Mickey Mantle retire.

It’s been a season filled with cheap gifts and donations to Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation — a season-long love fest for Jeter that’s made me sort of sick. But, as he walked off the field Sunday afternoon, I understood why he did it.

The game is always bigger than the people who play it. But Jeter is one of those once-in-a-generation players that seems to elevate himself above it.

Yes, he was never the most defensively gifted shortstop. Yes, he struggled when ranging to his right. No, he didn’t win a major offensive award, although looking back, it’s pretty obvious he should have been named MVP on 1999.

A quick note about that season: Jeter finished sixth in MVP voting in ’99 behind Ivan Rodriguez, Pedro Martinez, Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro. He had a better WAR than every player on that list except Pedro. He was also the only one to break 200 hits. But this did come at a time when the steroid-filled long ball dominated the sport.

So, no: Jeter was never exceptional on a year-to-year basis. Even during his prime, he probably wasn’t the best shortstop in the game. But, unlike his peers Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, Jeter managed longevity.

And, he managed to keep his image clean — often more important in New York than the play on the field. Yeah, he dated. A lot. If that’s the worst thing you can say about Jeter, I guess he did all right.

Where Jeter really stands above most of the former baseball greats, though, was the position he took as a leader on the team. He worked tirelessly year in and year out. And to kids growing up watching baseball in the 1990s, he was the player to look up to.

Just ask Xander Bogaerts, a young shortstop for the Red Sox who wears number two on his jersey in honor of Jeter. He was there with David Ortiz when the Red Sox presented Jeter with his going away gifts in his final game in Fenway Park.

And for me, a young kid who fell in love with one of America’s oldest sports, who picked a team because all they did was win, Jeter was the one who showed me what passion really is.

So thanks for the memories, Jeter. Thanks for great moments on the field and the funnier moments off of them. Thanks for caring more about the fans and the game than anything else.

U.S. Judge Denies Detriot Right to Water

by Sean Begin

Imagine a city of 700,000, filled with empty, light-less streets and dozens of abandoned buildings and warehouses. Homes fall apart around the families that live there. Poverty is increasingly high. Families go without fresh, running water.

This could be an accurate description of a third-world country. But it’s actually closer to home: Detroit, Michigan.

The decline of Detroit has been a part of the American consciousness for some time now. The recession hit not only the housing market especially hard, but the American automotive industry as well. The Big Three of Detroit — Ford, Chrysler and GM — were bailed out by the government. But while they thrive today, Detroit continues to suffer.

In 2013, they filed for bankruptcy on $18.5 million worth of debt. It was the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in history.

A report released later that year by Kevyn Orr, who had been appointed by Michigan to oversee Detroit’s finances, said the city “is clearly insolvent on a cash flow basis.”

The bankruptcy is the result of the declining auto industry and widespread corruption. In March 2013, a former Detroit mayor was convicted on 24 charges of corruption and bribery that included racketeering, fraud and kickbacks for city contracts, according to an article on BBC.

But things seem to have gotten really out of hand on Monday, when the judge overseeing the bankruptcy case ruled that he had no right to stop Detroit from shutting water off to thousands of homes behind on their bills.

“It cannot be doubted that water is a necessary ingredient to sustaining life,” said Judge Steven Rhodes in his ruling, adding that there isn’t “an enforceable right to free and affordable water.”

Wait, what?

“Detroit cannot afford any revenue slippage,” Rhodes added.

Maybe Rhodes is unaware of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25, Section I: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Here we have a bankruptcy judge calling money for Detroit more valuable than water that is necessary for human survival. Here we have someone who shouldn’t be making decisions. This is just another example of putting money for before humanity, business before the right to life.

Detroit’s problems are many but the people shouldn’t be subjected to a lack of water because they’re too poor to afford it. The government should be finding other solutions to the debt problem that don’t further the burdens of the American poor and lower middle class.

This wildly perplexing decision will hopefully meet swift and furious backlash from the United Nations and a quick reversal. Maybe Rhodes and the government he works for should be more concerned with why a city like Detroit has catastrophically failed financially instead of further grinding the American public into the ground by denying them basic human rights.

Hello Ello

by Brooke Karanovich

 

Social media has become insanely popular in the past few years, with Facebook leading the pack. Facebook has over one million active monthly users, making it the most popular social media platform in use currently.

As Facebook has progressed, the platform has changed in a variety of ways. It has become more user friendly, and recently, messages have changed. But the most noticeable change was the appearance of ads on the site.

Advertisements first appeared on Facebook around 2007 and were clearly advertisements. They became more and more prevalent on the site and now advertisements can be found in the newsfeed as sponsored stories. The amount of advertisements has created quite a stir and caused some people to jump off the Facebook bandwagon.

In the wake of the decline in Facebook’s popularity among some people, different social media platforms have popped up. The most recent site to do so, and with quite a big splash, is Ello.

Created by a Vermont Bike Shop owner, Ello recently opened up to the public on August 7th. Currently, Ello is invite only. And apparently people are requesting invites at an alarming rate.

What is the big deal with Ello? Ello has been called the “anti-facebook” network because its founder has pledged to not advertise on the site, or sell user data — two things for which Facebook comes under critique.

The site has come under critique since its release because, despite its popularity, it has been buggy and not user friendly. Yet people are still excited about it because it is advertisement-free social media!

It’s amazing that people flock to a product like Ello quickly: Facebook, despite its flaws, has been popular and in high demand since its inception. The public craves social media more and more, despite the wide availability of multiple types of social media platforms.

The beauty of the world wide web makes networking on these sites easy and readily available — and, apparently, prone to advertisements.

Ello has promised users an advertisement-free social network, and I guess we’ll have to wait and see if they can hold true to this promise. I doubt that any young entrepreneur foresees selling out on their original vision for advertisements and sponsored networking. Only time will tell if this wonderful utopian social media site will continue to be all it’s cracked up to be.

How to Cause a Racquet

by Ariana D’Avanzo

The game of tennis is not just winning and losing, keeping score or having an amazing serve, but outsmarting your opponent. The fundamentals of tennis are extremely important; this sport is one of accuracy and being able to always think one step ahead of your rival.

There are many factors that play a role in a given match. In this column, the focus will be on the importance of the grip and head size to a player’s racquet.

First, the size of the racquet head must be determined; there are different sizes for different age groups.

Young adults and adults tend to play with a surface area of around 85 to 105 square inches. Beginners can play with a larger surface area of around 105 to 130 square inches, while children tend to play with a head size between 21 inches and 23 inches.

The smaller the head size, the more stability; however, with small heads comes a rise in the power a player must generate. The larger the head size, the larger the sweet spot, which results in less out-of-control hits.

When choosing a head size, you will also be choosing the overall length of your racquet. Standard tennis racquets are around 27 to 28 inches, but you can also get ones up to 29 inches in length. (These tend to be used more by professionals.) The length of the racquet allows for leverage on your swing, which will result in a more powerful, faster shot.

Along with choosing head size, grip size will also need to be chosen. The grip size is important; it determines how strong or weak your hits will be, along with their accuracy.

Grip sizes for adults and young adults rang from 4″ to 4 ⅝”. When gripping the handle, make sure the bottom of your palm (right before your wrist begins) is on the bottom of the handle. You always want to hold the racquet at the bottom of the grip; this is where you will get the most control.

One method of choosing your grip is to hold the racquet in your dominant hand and place the index finger of your other hand in between your palm and fingers: if there is not enough space for your finger to touch the grip of the racquet, then it is too small, and it is too large if there is enough room to fit two fingers.

When deciding between two different sizes, always go with the smaller one. This is because you can always enlarge the size of the grip with grip tape, which will add width and padding for comfort.

Your racquet is filled with many elements that contribute to your overall game and score. A great player needs a great racquet, and a great racquet needs a great player.

Put The Cell Phone Away

By Acadia Otlowski

Look up.

No, really.

Click the power button on that glowing little screen of yours and join the present.

Be it a cell phone, a laptop or a tablet, Americans spend far too much time caring about the things that are happening on their various devices. According to the PEW Internet Research Project, 90 percent of all American adults have a cell phone, as of January 2014. The study also revealed that 58 percent of American adults have a smartphone.

Most of the time, it isn’t even because we are having an actual conversation with someone who is elsewhere. Most people are just flicking their thumb, scrolling through some social media feed. The result: spending time reading about other people’s lives and missing critical moments in our own.

The cell phone usage epidemic has gotten so invasive that restaurants have begun to ask customers to please not use them. A New York City restaurant went viral a few months ago when it looked into complaints that the wait time for its restaurant was too long. The restaurant hired a company to look into the claim, and it found that it used to take about an hour for a restaurant to serve a meal, but now it takes closer to two. It compared 2014 to 2004 and came to the conclusion that cell phones were to blame. Cell phones slowed down the time it took to order and to eat.

But slow service is not the only result of heavy cell phone usage. At a restaurant, those tables where everyone is on their cell phones, a heavy silence usually prevails. What is worse is being that one person who is not on their cell phone. The one who is actually aware that no one is speaking.

Compare this to a table where no one is on their cell phones. This table is usually loud, the conversations are better. The same thing happens at parties. Good times do not happen when everyone is preoccupied with the words and pictures on their screens.

Some of the best times I have had occurred in places where cell phones were limited. Either charging the phone was inconvenient or impossible or the service was nonexistent or slow.

It is one of the reasons that I love traveling with groups overseas. Most of the time no one has data on their cell phones and it forces everyone to put down the technology and converse.

When the Journalism students went to France over the summer, the first place that we stayed had no Wi-Fi, so we were forced to be in the moment and talk to each other. It caused some of us to bond more than we normally would, because there were no little glowing screens as a distraction.

Cell phones have made us more social online and less so in person. They’re causing us to forget how to have a real-life conversation without answering three texts and checking our Twitter feed.

So, please, if you’re questioning whether maybe you should put the cell phone down for a moment, or even turn it off, do it. You will not regret it.

Alabama Wrongly Denies Player Transfer

by Sean Begin
College sports has once again shown why the “student-athlete” concept is a myth, at least when compared to the people who run the athletics programs.
The University of Alabama recently denied women’s basketball player Daisha Simmons a transfer to Seton Hall because it would leave Alabama without a scholarship.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Simmons was a stand-out prep player in New Jersey who spent her first year in college ball on the Rutgers teams. She then transferred to Alabama, where she finished out her undergraduate degree, graduating last December.
Simmons decided to pursue her MBA, but since Alabama didn’t accept her into it’s program, she transferred to Seton Hall, hoping to earn her master’s while playing her final year of eligibility for the Pirates.
There was also a deeper reason for this move. Simmons’ brother is the final stage of chronic kidney disease, known as end-stage renal disease. He requires constant dialysis treatment while he waits for a kidney transplant.
Simmons’ mother works two jobs, so she decided to move back close to home to help her family out while still going to school and playing basketball.
But Alabama’s women’s basketball head coach Kristy Curry and athletic director Bill Battle blocked Simmons’ transfer, meaning she could practice with and keep the scholarship she was given by Seton Hall, but she can’t compete in games with her team.
“This shouldn’t be happening,” Simmons said to the New York Daily News.
And she’s right.
It’s not like Simmons is still a student at Alabama. She’s graduated. And she was denied entry into the MBA program there. If she wants to continue her education somewhere else, she has every right. And if she wants to play basketball somewhere else, Alabama shouldn’t be allowed to stop her.
This, however, is not the first case of a women’s basketball player being denied transfer.
Earlier this year, Kansas State attempted to block the transfer of Leticia Romero. After public outrage, Kansas State relented and gave Romero her transfer. She now plays for Florida State. Before that was Sydney Moss and Florida.
After her freshman year at the University of Florida, Moss wanted to transfer somewhere closer to home. Florida denied her. Not only did they deny her from transferring to a rival school, they denied her from transferring to any Division I institution.
Again, after public outrage, Moss was allowed to transfer to any school except Kentucky. She chose a Division III school in Kentucky showing, as Mike Robinson writes on SB Nation, “that all she cared about was being happy and close to her mother.”
The unfairness of Simmons’ situation is cast in an even harsher light when looking at her coach.
Kristy Curry was able to leave Purdue University for Texas Tech in 2006, despite the fact that Purdue’s women’s basketball was under investigation for violations. Then, after seven years ar Texas Tech with little success, she was able to up and leave for Alabama.
Yet, a player who only wants to continue her education while playing a simple sport, is being denied by the same person (and her superiors) who have no problem jumping ship when necessary.
It speaks to the broken system college athletes exist in that Simmons isn’t being allowed to compete. The worst part is that the NCAA thinks it’s solved the problem by saying Simmons can play next year for Seton Hall.
These archaic and inane rules should be destroyed but until then, the NCAA should step in and just let Simmons play this year.

Supreme Court Passes on Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

by Sean Begin
The Supreme Court made a momentous decision on Monday without hearing a single argument in court.
The court decided not to make a ruling on whether or not states can ban gay marriage, which means that five states (Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana) will now allow the unions to take place.
Those states had bans on gay marriage struck down by lower-court rulings. By choosing to not hear the appeals, the Supreme Court is effectively saying that the lower-courts’ decisions are valid.
In addition to the five states above, the ruling will allow for appeals courts hearing the cases of six other states to follow the precedent they already set and strike down bans in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.
If all the bans are struck down, it would increase the number of states that allow same-sex marriage to 30, a clear majority.
The issue, though, is how slowly the Supreme Court is moving to make a decision regarding a federal decision on same-sex marriage in America.
While the non-decision on Monday is a victory for proponents of same-sex marriage (Virginia officials said unions would start as soon as 1 p.m. on Monday), there are still 20 states that ban the practice.
According to an article in the New York Times, this sort of approach has happened before, when the Court waits for a majority of states to support an issue before making a decision.
In 1967, the Supreme Court finally struck down bans on interracial marriage, but only after the number of states supporting them had reached 34. The majority of America’s still supported a ban on interracial marriage at the time, however.
Unlike interracial marriage, however, popular opinion over same-sex marriage has moved much faster; a May 2014 Gallup poll showed that 55 percent of Americans supported such unions.
The decision to not decide means that states fighting to allow same-sex marriage will continue to fight it out in the lower courts. Part of this is because so many are allowing same-sex marriage that the Supreme Court justices don’t feel the need to step in.
This is flawed logic.
Anyone living in the 20 or so states that still have same-sex marriage bans who wishes to form such a union are still begin forced to go to another state to be wed. Even then, they may not have the same rights and benefits as traditionally married couples.
The Supreme Court is the final word in interpreting the laws written by Congress and signed by the President. With same-sex marriage clearly supported by a majority of states and of the population, the Supreme Court should have made a choice to rule on these cases.
If the justices are satisfied with the way states are handling the issue, why not step in and follow suit by striking down all bans on the practice and allowing same-sex couples the rights and benefits they deserve?

Let’s Say Goodbye to Columbus Day

by Sean Begin

Many public school systems had Monday off for Columbus Day. It’s hard to find anyone not familiar with the singsong history of Christopher Columbus; “In fourteen-hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

The rhyme is meant to help elementary school students remember the year Columbus “discovered” America. It’s also an example of rewriting history and failing to fully acknowledge truth.

American elementary school history books whitewash Columbus’ bloody history with “the New World.” They paint him as a benevolent explorer who tamed a land of “savages.”

Reality, as is often the case, is not as pretty.

In a supreme twist of irony, Columbus never actually set foot on any soil that is now part of the continental United States. While he did discover that land existed to the west of Europe, he presumed he had reached his intended target off the West Indies.

When Columbus finally did arrive here, it wasn’t with the intent to become friendly with natives and learn from and about them. In a very 21st century-style mindset, Columbus was motivated by money and potential wealth, mainly for his monarchal Spanish backers.

Columbus and his men saw the indigenous people they found as obstacles, using them as slaves, forcing them to convert to Christianity and bringing disease that nearly eradicated entire populations.

This is fact that gets overlooked and ignored in the classroom. Something the College Board, which oversees the standards for AP courses in high schools across the country, saw fit to correct when they changed the standards for AP US History.

The changes led one conservative school board in Colorado to challenge the Board’s decision.

According to curriculum review proposal: “Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

Essentially, this Colorado school board is saying it wants the students its responsible for to be force-fed the same garbage history because to talk about the truth is “unpatriotic.”

The decision led to a mass “sick-out” by teachers from two schools under the school board as well as walk-outs by hundreds of students, a direct civil disobedience act the school board looks to quell.

Maybe the school board forgot the dissent and lack of respect for authority that led the founding fathers to wage war against one of the most powerful nations in the world at the time.

It’s time to stop pushing this clean-copy version of Columbus’ history. He wasn’t even the first non-indigenous person to set foot in America (that distinction belongs to Leif Eriksson and his band of Vikings who founded a small colony in Newfoundland. Legend has it that Irish monks arrived even earlier than that).

Columbus simply gets the credit because he showed the European powers that the land existed.

It seems, with all the facts that exist, that the US should stop celebrating Columbus as a hero and instead acknowledge the bloody path he left in history. Instead, the federal government should follow the lead of Seattle.

The Seattle City Council passed a resolution to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday of October, the day traditionally set aside for Columbus Day.

Seattle didn’t replace Columbus Day but the move recognizes a truer history of America than the one currently in place. It’s time to end Columbus Day and the recognition of a conqueror in favor of the indigenous people of the Americas.

 

A Racquet Brand for You

by Ariana D’Avanzo

While the first two columns here discussed the physical properties that go into selecting the racquet, this week will look at something equally as important: the racquet brand.

Currently, there are a total of 17 brands on the market that you can choose from but the top three competing tennis brands are Wilson, Prince and Head.

First off: Wilson. The Wilson brand is an American company that was created in 1913; they produced some of the first natural gut tennis strings. Wilson racquets tend to have more flex in the swing, which allows the ball to go deeper into the court with less power from the player. One thing to remember is that Wilson racquets have a dense string pattern. This means that there is less space between each string, which results in a natural slice in the players hit.

Prince, which is another American company that originated in 1970, is known for creating the first tennis ball machine. With this brand, the sweet spot is located in the center of the head, which results in the ball staying under more control and being more direct. Prince is known for its oversized tennis racquet: the heads tend to be slightly wider when compared to other brands.

The brand Head was founded in Delaware in 1950 and its headquarters is now located in Austria and Netherlands. This company is known for creating the first metal tennis racquet, making the transition from wood. Head racquets tend to have a looser string patter, which creates a natural topspin. These racquets are also known for their light weight. Around 30 percent of the top 100 tennis players on the ATP Tour, which is a worldwide tennis tour for men, are playing with the Head brand.

Babolat is a smaller brand that is making a surge as one of the better brands on the market. This French company was created in 1875 and is the inventor of the tennis string. These racquets are known for their power, which can result in a strong serve.

Babolat racquets are produced within multiple series; each series has their own creative team and each team creates a racquet that has a specialty. The Babolat Pure Control Team produces red racquets with white stripes that are made for control. The Babolat AeroPro Drive, which comprise black racquets with yellow stripes, are racquets that are known for providing head speed and spin. Within each series there are multiple racquets that have different perks.

Every brand has its specialty, but in the end you — the player — have to play with multiple brands and multiple styles to see what fits you best. Choosing your racquet is a hard decision, one that requires a lot of thought. The racquet itself has a large role in determining the outcome of the match. But, in the end, the best way of choosing a racquet is trying out multiple styles to see what racquet speaks to you.