Death by Greek Life

College is supposed to be a time where students make new friends, discover themselves, enjoy their new found independence, work to excel academically, and on occasion let loose and have fun. So what is your ideal night of fun? Is it being forced to eat an omelet made of vomit and then chugging a cup of vinegar? Or maybe you’re more into psychological torture, such as being stripped naked and ridiculed for insecurities others see in you? For some, this is a daily occurrence that lasts roughly eight weeks, sometimes even more. One would ask why someone would voluntarily participate in these barbaric acts. Many students join fraternities and sororities to make friends, attend social events, meet members of the opposite sex, and expand their network. Sadly, in Greek life on certain campuses, some are treated so horribly that these rites of passage can ultimately lead to death. On record, there have been hundreds upon hundreds of documented hazing incidents that date back to the 1800’s. According to studies, three out of ten students report that they’d be willing to do something illegal to join a particular group of students.

The most reported cases of hazing that ended up with either severe injuries or death included alcohol. Forced binge drinking leads to fatal consequences such as alcohol poisoning, choking on one’s vomit, seizures, and falls that cause hematoma. Another horrific example of a case where hazing was involved includes the elephant walk. The hazelephant walk is where a group of guys form a straight line and grab the genitals of the guy in back of them with one hand and put their thumb in the rectum of the guy in front of them. Sounds pretty demeaning and absurd, right? If you have a weak stomach then you will not survive pledging. A Dartmouth student claimed that in 2012, he and other pledges were forced to swim in a kiddie pool filled with human excrement, semen, and rotten food. Yum!

You’re probably wondering why the school and government don’t take action to discipline those accused of college hazing. Surely there should be some form of law to punish these cases of abuse, especially when some lead to death. Though many fraternities and sororities keep their actions low-key and hidden from the police, there are laws that illegalize hazing. According to the New York Hazing Law, “a person is guilty of hazing when in the course of another person’s initiation into or affiliation with any organization, he intentionally or recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of physical injury to such other person or a third person and thereby causes such injury.” The most serious charge of manslaughter was given to eight Beta Theta Phi brothers at Penn State. Along with manslaughter, they were also charged with hazing, reckless endangerment of another person, and supplying alcohol to minors. The brothers were responsible for the death of sophomore Timothy Piazza, who died from multiple falls after having too many drinks. None of them called 911 after Piazza’s fall and it seemed as if the video surveillance from the Beta Theta Phi’s house was tampered with. This proves that dire injuries can happen to those who pledge fraternities and sororities. Thankfully, numerous cases of hazing have caused many colleges to either shut down the fraternity/sorority, establish strict rules, or ban greek life. Throughout history there have been countless hazing incidents, but now repercussions are finally being taken seriously and offenders are punished.

Activist Roxcy Bolton Dies at 90

Roxcy Bolton, an American pioneer for feminism, died on Wednesday, May 17 in Coral Gables, Florida, her hometown. Bolton is remembered for challenging the N.O.A.A. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to name hurricanes after both men and women rather than only women, developing America’s first rape treatment center, and advocating for the Equal Rights Amendment.

Although the Equal Rights Amendment was never passed by Congress, Bolton made significant progress in many other areas. She was known for sticking to a significant cause no matter how many people were against it and she primarily focused on issues in Florida. She pushed Miami department stores to get rid of men-only dining areas, saying that “men and women sleep together; why can’t they eat together?” In 1972, she persuaded President Richard Nixon to initiate a Women’s Equality Day. She founded the nation’s first Rape Treatment Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in 1974, which was later named after her in her honor. Bolton pressed authorities to treat rape crimes as a top priority throughout her life, and she was admitted to the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame for doing so.

The late Roxcy Bolton.

The late Roxcy Bolton.

Most memorably, Roxcy Bolton fought against sexism in meteorology. Starting in 1953, all hurricanes were named exclusively after women, which angered Bolton. She said that women “deeply resent being arbitrarily associated with disaster.” It didn’t help that (mostly male) weathermen enforced sexist stereotypes by saying that hurricanes were “temperamental” or “flirting” with the coastline. When she protested against this issue, she faced criticism from weathermen, and when the National Organization for Women (N.O.W.) sent a letter urging the National Hurricane Center to address and fix the issue, Bolton faced further criticism. Still, because she fought hard, the National Hurricane Center finally listened to her long after her initial protests and in 1979, the second hurricane of the season was named Bob.

Bolton was born Roxcy O’Neal on June 3, 1926 in Duck Hill, Mississippi. She later moved to Florida and married William Charles Hart, with whom she had a son, Randall, who died in 2000. She divorced Hart later on and in 1960, she married David Bolton, a Navy commander who helped her in her campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment. They had three children and lived together until he died in 2004. Roxcy Bolton is survived by her two sons David and Buddy, and daughter Bonnie.

Alabama Church Pushes to Arm Churches

The Alabama Senate recently passed a bill that would allow a church to have a police force to protect itself. This bill will be going to the house who has said that they would be fine with allowing the church to run an actual police force. The bill passed the Senate in April and should be going to the house soon, which has said they would like to pass it.

This bill has garnered a lot of controversy. It has left a lot of people scared that they will be losing their religious liberty. “What if you are Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, etc., but you have a Christian church in charge of your local police force?” many have asked. Many people have criticized it for the unconstitutionality of the bill,  “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. – First Amendment of the Constitution of The United States of America.

America was founded on religious freedom. The founding fathers were strong secularists: “Christianity is nor ever was a part of the common law” – Thomas Jefferson; “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion” -John Adams. Some people have tried to claim otherwise but that claim is simply incompatible with facts. Jefferson also told us to “Question with boldness even the existence of a God”.

Some people defending the bill have said that “The constitution does not explicitly say ‘Separation of Church and State’ in it”. Some opponents of the bill have responded to this with citing the first amendment. It is very hard to refute that this bill does respect a religious establishment.

Some defenders of this bill have tried arguing that the bill only gives the church this power at certain times. Some defenders of it have also said that the police officers appointed by the church have to be approved by the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commision. People have also argued that they would only be getting a small area to police so it is not that big of a deal.

The House read this bill, is currently rewriting it, and should be voting on it sometime in June. The bill has not gotten much attention from the media because it has not passed yet, but it will get a lot of attention if it goes through. You will likely see some sharp division over the bill if it passes, which could be soon.

The Fidget Felonies

These three-pronged plastic playthings have become murder weapons

These three-pronged plastic playthings are the newest fad of the country.

Fidget spinners have, without a doubt, boomed with the general population in the past few weeks. They were originally made as a fidget tool for ADD and ADHD patients to have something for their hands to do so they could focus on other work. But as they met the general population, they have evolved into a toy, becoming the foreground focus instead of the background tool. Schools all over the country have banned these spinners because they were becoming a distraction. But that isn’t the real reason they’re being banned everywhere. The spinners have become more than just a fidget tool or a toy. They have become murder weapons.

In Detroit, Michigan, there have been a reported 26 deaths directly linked to fidget spinners, at least 14 of which were confirmed to be murders. But how does one take such an innocent toy and turn it into a murder weapon? Well, it turns out, it doesn’t take much at all. Specimens found at crime sites have had box cutters attached to them, covered in blood. The way the spinner works makes it really easy to just spin it and throw it like a martial arts shuriken at whoever the victims may have been.

However, the wound alone wouldn’t be enough to kill a person. It would take a direct shot between the ribs and into the heart to kill someone immediately, which is extremely unlikely. Even a very deep wound isn’t fatal if treated quickly enough, and in the correct way. So how did these people die?

One of the 14 deaths was linked to tetanus, due to the lack of vaccination. But what about the others? There are many other bacterial infections that people aren’t vaccinated for. Most of them can be treated with an antibiotic, but the extremely unsanitary conditions at the Detroit Medical Center could have made these antibiotics useless. Although the existing infections get treated, unsterile needles and other equipment cause new infections. These new infections are mistaken for the original ones, so other stronger antibiotics are then used. The original infection has already been cured by now, and the strong antibiotic instead starts targeting helpful bacteria, while the new infection continues growing. The other thirteen deaths were all either linked to other bacterial infections, or the lack of certain probiotics necessary to survival.

Due to these murders, fidget spinners have been officially banned in the states of Michigan, Louisiana, Missouri, Maryland, and Tennessee, as well as the cities of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Oakland, California; Cleveland, Ohio; and in Washington D.C. Those who simply own spinners will be sentenced to a fine of $150 per spinner owned, and those who commit crimes with them will be sentenced to at least three years in prison.

The fidget spinner has gone from a simple fidget tool to a distracting toy to a murder weapon. We give our odes to the victims, whose names have not yet been disclosed, while authorities keep hunting for possible culprits.

The Uber, the Bad and the Ugly

The well known start up company Uber has been flagged lately with a lot of controversy, from not paying workers what they deserve to the stealing of intellectual property. The seemingly squeaky clean company may have a few dark secrets.

Uber is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice because of a tool they built to help their drivers avoid law enforcement in states where Uber is not currently legal. “We support the criminal investigation by the United States Department of Justice into Uber’s use of the Greyball tool to evade regulators, and will continue to move forward with our own efforts to subpoena the requested records from Uber,” Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman said in a statement.

Uber is also currently in the courtroom for charges that they stole trade secrets and intellectual property for its self-driving car business from Google’s (GOOGL, Tech30) Waymo. The case may prove Uber officials wrong with what they call “potentially … the most lucrative business in history.” There are many things currently putting Uber at risk of losing customers and potentially even their legal standing.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick recently bailed on appearing at a big tech conference amid an ongoing internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations made by a former employee. This may be one of the worst suits currently facing Uber, not from a legal standpoint, but from the bad publicity that could cause them to lose many of their clients.

Once a booming startup, Uber is now losing consumers support because of multiple law suits and bad headlines. Not to mention the fact that there are now competitors that cost less and have fewer dirty secrets. “Public perception is shaken,” Mike Walsh, an early Uber investor told CNNTech, “But I’m hopeful and confident that’ll come back.” The damage has been months in the making. Uber was hit by a viral boycott in late January after it was perceived as breaking up a strike of taxi drivers who were protesting President Trump’s travel ban. The next month it launched an “urgent” investigation in response to sexual harassment allegations. Weeks later, Kalanick was caught on camera arguing with an Uber driver.

Along the way, there have been a series of executive departures, including president Jeff Jones, who quit because of concerns over the firm’s management culture, and Rachel Whetstone, head of policy and communications. It “sends a bad signal to other employees and potential hires,” Walsh said. “A company can’t grow and excel without top talent, so this is concerning to me.” Meanwhile, some of Uber’s competitors are benefiting from its stumbles. Lyft, Uber’s top rival in the U.S., recently raised $600 million in funding and said it experienced a 60% increase in new passenger signups the week after the Uber boycott. “Lyft was doing well before Uber shot itself in the foot,” Michael Moe, a Lyft investor, told CNNTech in an interview last month. “But certainly those issues at Uber… have created an acceleration to Lyft’s business.”

That doesn’t mean Uber’s drivers are suddenly fleeing the service. Harry Campbell, a driver for Uber and Lyft who runs a popular blog for drivers in the industry, said “Uber is just as busy as ever for drivers.”

Why You Shouldn’t Support Autism Speaks

Every April is Autism Acceptance month, and although it’s over, it’s always a good time to remind people not to support organizations that are harmful and discriminatory towards people with autism, namely Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is the world’s most well-known autism advocacy organization as well as one of the largest, but it is certainly not the most helpful. In fact, it has sparked several controversies among the autistic community over the years.

Autism Speaks was founded in 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright after their son was diagnosed with autism. Its mission is to seek treatments and cures for autism spectrum disorders, and it spends lots of money on researching the causes of autism. On April 2, President Donald Trump made a statement supporting the organization and commemorating their annual event, Light It Up Blue, which is meant to spread autism awareness.

The logo for Autism Speaks.

The logo for Autism Speaks.

The clear problem with this is that Autism Speaks spreads stigma and prejudice against autistic people. They see autism as a disease and have even compared it to AIDS and cancer. In reality, autism is simply a mental condition that makes certain people go through life differently than those who are considered “normal” by society. Autism Speaks also has no autistic members on its Board of Directors, so a group of people with flawed perceptions about autistic people are making huge decisions about their entire community without their consent or input. It caters more towards parents of children with autism, hoping to alleviate the so-called “struggles” of raising a child with a developmental disability. Very few of their funds actually go to helping autistic people, with most of their money spent on research and marketing. Most of their advertising spreads harmful stereotypes about autistic people. Furthermore, Autism Speaks has been working to advance prenatal testing so that if a fetus is autistic, its mother can choose to get it aborted. This is similar to the prenatal test for Down syndrome and, in a worst-case scenario, could end up eliminating autistic people for good.

While autism can definitely be hard to deal with, Autism Speaks’ motive is certainly not the solution. Most people with autism would prefer not to be cured, because although autism does not define them, it plays a large role in who they are as people. In addition, autistic people don’t want “awareness.” They want acceptance. Plenty of people know what autism is, but not as many go so far as to understand and help people with autism. We need people to be more understanding and supportive, especially since Autism Speaks sees autistic people as less than human.
If you’re looking for alternatives to Autism Speaks that actually support autistic people themselves, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) is a great choice. Many of its members are autistic and their goal is to find ways to spread autism acceptance and to provide autistic people with better ways to cope in our discriminatory society. You can also donate to the Autism Women’s Network (AWN) and Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE), and be sure to educate yourself and others about autism so that you know what’s most helpful to the autistic community.

A Nevada Teen With a Love for Chicken Nuggets Makes History

As of 11:24AM on Tuesday, May 9th, a tweet by 16 year-old Carter Wilkerson, from Reno, Nevada, broke the world record for the most retweeted tweet ever, at 3,441,701 retweets, beating the previous record of 3,430,751 by a tweet from Ellen Degeneres. Best of all, Carter will be getting his nuggs, as well as over $100,000 to charity.

On April 6th, Carter accepted a challenge from Wendy’s official Twitter account to get a year’s supply of free chicken nuggets if he gets 18 million retweets. He then posted a screenshot of the exchange, commented “HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS.” The tweet then went viral, hitting a million retweets in just one day, two million on Monday, April 10th. On April 13th, Ellen Degeneres announced on her show that Carter was getting dangerously close to beating her world record, and that anyone who retweets Carter’s tweet should also retweet hers, so that she would stay ahead. Alas, the tweet hit three million retweets on Monday, April 17th, before finally hitting 3.441 million on Tuesday, May 9th.

Carter holds his certificate proudly after winning his chicken nuggets.

Carter holds his certificate proudly after winning his chicken nuggets.

At this time, Wendy’s posted a tweet saying “.@carterjwm is now the most retweeted tweet of all-time. That’s good for the nuggets, and $100k to @DTFA. Consider it done. #nuggsforcarter,” followed by a tweet from Guinness World Records saying “Congratulations to @carterjwm who just broke @TheEllenShow’s record for most retweeted tweet on @Twitter #NuggsForCarter.” But the chicken nuggets weren’t the only reward. During his campaign, he sold t-shirts, with all the profits going to Moms on the Run, a non-profit breast cancer organization based in Reno. In addition, Wendy’s donated $100,000 to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, another non-profit organization which aims to find homes for kids in foster care across the U.S. and Canada.

Although Carter won his nuggets, he isn’t done yet. After beating the world record, he posted that he was going to keep the fundraiser up, and is hoping to eventually reach the 18 million retweets, or five percent of all active Twitter users, that he originally strived for.

The Real Cost of Ballet

Though most people’s perceptions of ballet are through rose colored glasses, the reality of this form of dance is less than glamorous. Its romanticized image solely includes graceful ballerinas galloping effortlessly to that one Tchaikovsky song, all whilst being showered with roses and applauses. Behind the facade of smiles and feather-like movements, the effort and work needed to dance is relentlessly tiring and ultimately destructive to the human body.

One major disadvantage of ballet is the hefty price tag. Let’s calculate the cost of all the expenses. Pointe shoes are priced at around $80. Professional ballerinas have to purchase new footwear at least once a week because of how soft the shank (sole of the shoe) becomes after constant usage. Dance attire is less costly, but definitely adds up over time. Basic leotards cost $20 and tights cost $10. On average dancers buy two leotards and ten pairs of tights each year of training. Though not as pricey as pointe shoes, the costs could easily increase if a dancer grows or rips his or her apparel. With just the essential materials needed, this adds up to an annual expense of $4,300. This num12007913383_5aac2f1608_bber doesn’t include the cost of dance classes, which seem highly exorbitant. On average, dance classes can cost anywhere from $40 to $160 per month not including fees. These are just regular dance classes at a local studio though. At a higher tiered school such as the Joffrey Ballet School, a dance class for toddlers can cost $690 per class. According to a study done by FiveThirtyEight, raising a top-trained ballerina who begins to dance at age three could cost more than $100,000 by the time he or she turns 18.

Another significant factor is the physical and mental damage to the body that can be caused by ballet. Dancers can be exposed to severe injuries depending on how hard they work, how well they are trained, and also how early in life they start. Dancers bones and bodies usually show signs of premature aging: bunions, bone deformations and tendons that are severely damaged. Other injuries that are common include tears of the joint, muscle, tendon and ligament. In nearly any other sport such as football, players wear shoes that are made with nice comfy padding. In ballet, however pointe shoes are made of fabric, cardboard and/or paper hardened by glue. The feet absorb the shock which can cause sprains and fractures to the foot, toes, and ankles. “I broke a metatarsal on stage once. I was performing a solo and heard this crack. I didn’t realise I’d broken it at the time, because you’re used to taking pain,” says Begoña Cao, a professional ballerina for the English National Ballet. By the time most professional ballerinas retire, they will have artificial hips and a permanent limp. The stress of ballet can also lead to many mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, bulimia, body dysmorphic disorder, OCD, and social anxiety. Eating disorders are extremely common amongst competitive dancers who are trying to please directors. What is called the “Balanchine body type,” a tall slender ballerina with long legs and short torsos is considered ideal. Rachel Parker, who is a retired Birmingham Royal Ballet dancer, says “Ballet is always about aesthetic lines and unfortunately you associate this kind of thinness with beauty in the ballet world. There are certain types of performers that fall victim to eating disorders – the perfectionists and highly self-critical people.”

Overall, ballet is an art form that is rich in history, but there are also components that one must consider before making judgements and or even starting ballet themselves. From the costly price tag to the mental and physical challenges, ballet is a complex dance form that is beautifully dangerous.

 

Discrimination Against Atheists

Usually when we think of discrimination we think of discrimination against African-Americans, women, homosexuals, or anyone of many minority groups. We never think of discrimination against atheists though, which is a problem because they absolutely are discriminated against.

Recently YouTube changed their censorship policies so that you could not have the word “atheist” in your username because YouTube does not want anything “offensive or controversial” on their website. “Offensive or controversial” does not apply to having “Jewish” or “Christian” in your name.

Both our Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have both endorsed the teaching of the Bible as history in public schools. I thought that separation of church and state was mandated by our constitution?

Congress has no open atheists. There has only been one openly atheist congressman in history, Pete Stark (D-Calif.), who retired in 2013. The closest we have now is Bernie Sanders (I-Ver.) who identifies as “non-religious,” but he says he believes in God. Atheists make up 3% of the US population but 0% of the U.S. Congress. Christians, on the other hand, make up 91% of the U.S. Congress but only 70% of the U.S. population and Jews make up 6.7% of the U.S. Congress and only 1.9% of the U.S. population.

The inaugural ceremony does not technically exclude atheists, but also anyone who is not Christian, which is 30% of the population. Whoever is being sworn in must put their hand on a Bible and is sworn in by a priest. Also at the Presidential inauguration, a Christian band will typically perform.

It was not until 1954 that the words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance. It was added at the climax of the Cold War when America was trying to defend itself from “atheistic Communism.” It was added to it because Religion, mostly Christianity was and is now looked at as an “American value.”

This discrimination is undeniable. You cannot simply say “atheists just don’t want to run for office” because there are still 10,075,000 American atheists, so there are definitely plenty who have political aspirations and a few people in Congress who are atheist but not open about it. If Congress had actually been an accurate reflection of America, there would be about 16 atheists in Congress. YouTube’s censorship policy is irrefutably discrimination. Saying “they still have other websites” is not at all valid because there are no video websites nearly as popular as YouTube.

This discrimination is in other areas too. I’m sure you’ve all seen the clips on Real Time with Bill Maher of Bill Maher saying “Islam is not a religion of peace” or “All religions are stupid and dangerous” which he gets in much trouble for, but you never hear about Sean Hannity getting in trouble for saying something like “Atheism has been a bane on society.” Don’t get me wrong though, I totally believe that people have a right to get upset with Bill Maher for making fun of their religion, but I also think that atheists have that same right to get mad at Sean Hannity for saying bigoted things towards atheists.

Discrimination against atheists and discrimination as a whole is an evil and must be fought against. We must build a society where any sort of religious belief is accepted and respected. I encourage anyone reading this to pay more attention to this problem and try to take steps towards fixing it.

Artificial Womb Helps Raise Premature Sheep — Humans May be Next

Recently, scientists at the Center for Fetal Research in the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reported that they had successfully raised eight prematurely born lambs in an artificial womb for 28 days. But how did they do it? Actually, it’s not as complicated as it seems.

This is a diagram of the system that was used to raise the lambs.

This is a diagram of the system that was used to raise the lambs.

The system uses a circulatory system, a closed fluid environment, and the fetus’ own heart to pump blood, to support a stable development. Blood pumped by the fetus’ heart is circulated through an oxygenator and back to the fetus, similar to the gas exchange across a placenta. A very specially made fluid mimicking amniotic fluid fills the womb, and is continuously exchanged, similar to how it is in the uterus. The fluid provides insulation, protects the fetus from infection, and helps maintain temperature, pressure, and light. The fluid is also very important in lung development.

The system worked very well. After four weeks in the artificial womb, all the lambs showed normal statistics in circulation, blood pressure, metabolic processing, growth, lung development, and brain development. Seeing these positive results raises a question: Will this technology be able to be used for premature human babies?

The hope is that it will eventually be used for humans, but it won’t be soon. Scientists still need to scale down the system to the size of a human fetus and find a good fluid to mimic human amniotic fluid, as well as refine the system to have the results compare to current neonatal intensive care treatments. Other treatment options for premature birth also discovered with sheep models, such as steroid injections used to help accelerate lung development, took over 20 years to get into clinical practice. When it does finally get implemented, though, the plan is to use it to get babies to 25 weeks, when there is about an 80% life expectancy, which is much higher than the near zero at and before 22 weeks. All of this will hopefully meet the unmet need of extreme prematurity.