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     The NATO Summit in Chicago is being held this weekend so I figured I would write about the terror plot that was planned for the event. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, will feature numerous nation representatives and even our President Barack Obama. Three men have been arrested for conspiracy,  possession of explosives (Molotov cocktails), and other terror plot penalties.                  However, Sarah Gelsomino, defense attorney, believes these charges are part of a police sting operation stating the charges given as "very sensationalized." Gelsomino also thinks that the charges as being used in an attempt to demonize the victims in the public eye. The three men, Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly will plead guilty at the May 26th trial. Bail has been set at 1.5 Million. The problem I see with this story is that the many people do not know where to draw the line between peaceful protesting and domestic terrorism. Awaiting to hear more from the May 26th trial, these 20-something year old men will most definitely face a hard battle. 

 
 
     This post is about three shootings that took place in Altoona, Pennsylvania, a town less than an hour away from where I grew up. Raymond Williams, a retiree, was shot outside his home while checking his mail on April 6th  by a man whom he had never known, Nick Horner. Nick had recently returned from Iraq less than a year ago but as a different man says his mother. Nick Horner gunned down a High School student as well as a wounding a woman at a store. Nick Horner was on the receiving end of a combat action badge and many other awards for serving his time in Iraq but was not looking to receive two first degree murder charges and a possible death sentence. 
     "He wasn't my little boy anymore" says Nick's mother. After returning from Iraq, Nick would rarely leave his home and his wife stated that she would often find him crying in their basement. The family felt Nick had seen and done things none of them have ever had the chance to do. The remaining question is however, did the Iraq war come home with Nick that day?
      Horner was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning home from Iraq and now his PTSD is going to be used as a criminal defense in the court room. There are more than 90,000 current serving  troops and 200,000 administrative veterans diagnosed with PTSD. The illness has been used as a criminal defense in the past but now the courts are facing a new challenge, should PTSD be allowed as a defense for murder. 
     On the morning of April 6th, Nick Horner dropped his kids off at school and headed to the bar where he drank two full pitchers of beer before leaving to rob a subway. Horner beat on the back door of the restaurant demanding to be let in, failing, he shot out the utility box and cut the electricity to the building. Once inside, Nick killed subway clerk and high school student Scott Garlick and injured another worker, Michelle Petty. He stole about $130 dollars and once Horner fled the scene he shot and killed Raymond Williams several blocks away only for his car keys to escape. 
      Nick Horner's attorney claimed Nick was not evil at all but rather he was just "sick." Horner was taking  a heavy amount of prescription drugs prescribed for his PTSD at the time. The ruling eventually decided against Horner as PTSD was not sufficient evidence for murder in this case. 
     Let me start by saying I was very concerned this topic after reading this article. These events occured within 60 miles of my home and innocent members of society were killed. The biggest fear factor for me was learning this could happen anywhere at anytime. 
     In my opinion PTSD should not be a criminal defense in ANY court case. I feel that people are responsible for their own actions. Now I do not know what PTSD feels like or what the thinking processes involved are but I believe people should be strong and willing enough to overcome any initial thoughts of killing. I definitely side with the court on this case and I would love to hear your opinions! Feel free to comment in the space below. 


"We haven't begun to see the wave of all this."

  -William Brown, Expert on PTSD criminal cases

 
 
     Yesterday afternoon the Occupy Wall Street movement held it's May Day protest worldwide. The protest was anything short of powerless as protesters across Europe in France, Italy, Greece, and Spain marched in protest of enforced austerity. While in Asia workers protested for increased pay hikes and job security. Thousands gathered globally to spread the word of the 99% and to fight for civilian rights. Many skipped school and work to protest yesterday as well as not banking or shopping to show the world what a day without the 99% is truly like. 
     Hundreds rallied at Westlake Park in Seattle's city center to fight for workers labor and immigrant rights. Much of Seattle was shutdown during the day (EXCELLENT!!!) with shop keepers boarding up their storefront windows. The duration of the protest featured about eight arrests from people in masks who smashed store windows and instigated destruction of the city. American Apparel, Starbucks, Niketown, and half a dozen banks were a few of the attacked businesses. Mayor Mike McGinn issued an emergency order that allowed police to seize any implements that might be used to cause additional destruction. A gallery was set up downtown to photograph the collected evidence which included;  clusters of cigarette lighters and spray paint cans. Also, there were no reports of major injuries. "We mobilized a massive amount of people under the idea that things needed to change, and one of the key things was the idea of decolonization," said Daniel Bass, a protesters at Westlake Park Tuesday night.
    In New York City thousands marched down Broadway at about 5:30pm after a day long protest at Union Square. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, who protested budget cuts, was one of the many groups rallying in NYC on Tuesday. Others protested home foreclosures and worker inequality. Reports say that about 30 arrests took place and that the event was essentially peaceful.  The scariest part of the night for many protesters was seeing police officials on horseback with helmets, dogs, and riot gear waiting for an any act of civil disobedience. The streets were aligned with barricades, police busses, and motor scooters. At the corner of Broadway and Wall Street police waited to begin making arrests while protesters ended their night at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial amphitheater to listen to speeches about economic disparity.
    Chicago and Los Angeles were also cities hosting May Day protests. In Chicago 2,000 people rallied for greater worker protection and immigration reform. In Los Angeles a fight broke out during an immigration rally that left an officer injured. The May Day protest was smaller than typical but the voice of thousands was heard yesterday worldwide. We are the 99%.

 
 
     This blog post was inspired by a story I head today about a six year old boy who was arrested for kicking his teacher in Indiana. The boy had a prior offense against him for similar actions and this time the teacher called the police instead of parents. Interestingly enough this trend is all but uncommon, from 2009-2010 90,000 students were arrested in New Mexico and in 2010 300,000 students were given misdemeanors. These figures include children like the six year old from Indiana who is now facing battery charges. I believe this should raise a few questions. Why are we seeing a spike in child arrests lately? What is the reason lurking behind violent children acting out in school? Is it coming from the home or from their school surroundings that makes these children criminals? 
     Another issue that needs to be taken into consideration is that the six year old boy was escorted out of his school in handcuffs. This is a major concern to me because of the psychological trauma that the child may face. Think of the emotions that must have been running through that kids head as he was removed from his kindergarten class in handcuffs in front of all of his peers. If I was a parent of any child at this school I would be extremely upset at how the situation was handled. I believe parents should be called before the police only because of the emotional problems that children may face in their futures if a similar situation would happened to them. 
      Another point I would like to add is that statistically speaking the earlier a person is introduced into the criminal system, the more likely that person is to re-enter. If it were possible I think it would be interesting to do a follow up story in maybe ten or twenty years from now and assess the child's, now adult, juridical situation. I'm taking a class at my university entitled "deviant behavior" and we learned about labeling theories and how when a person is labeled as a criminal they feel obligated to maintain that deviant status. I also know that it is very hard to break the mold of a given label because one will start to believe they are who their label condemns them to be. Multiple sociological studies have been done on this subject and would not like to see this six year old become a statistic. 
     To sum up, I'm not sure what is causing the flux in violent children or why they are increasingly being arrested, but I would like to see more research put into this matter so that children like that of the six year old from Indiana will not be scarred from any more psychological trauma. 
 
 
A friend of mine recommended this video which I found to be very thought provoking. I'm not going to comment on the video but I would like you to watch it and form your own opinion. It is very interesting to say the least.
 
 
     COLLEGE KIDS! Prepare yourself for an increase in interest for student loans. Reports are coming in that the federal student loan interest rate is soon going to DOUBLE! From as much as 3.4 to 6.8 percent. It may surprise you to know that student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt in the US by 150 billion dollars. How are parents and their graduates planning on paying for the mountain of debt that will be placed on their shoulders?  One way that people are ridding themselves of student loans is by registering for loan forgiveness programs. Here, debtors can sign up for programs willing to work with you by offering volunteer services to help pay off your debt. Americorps is one of these programs, I know many law schools offer this type of service as well. 
     Another way to lower student debt is to apply, apply, apply for scholorships while your still in college. Scholorships are practically free money that people are handing out. With the help of a 1-2 page essay you can be one step closer to reducing student fees. 
     I hate to admit that I am a statistic here because I have place my entire college tuition on student loans and a few grants. I don't even want to think about what I will have to do within the next few years to start paying back my student loans. Hopefully, I will find a decent career and have no trouble paying my monthly student loan bills, however, this is not the case for everyone. As of 2012, many students will have a $20,000+ loan to worry about. This raises a couple of other questions like: is college really worth the financial cost?, will student debt totals continue to rise?, and has college become a monetary scam? Leave a comment and let me know what you think!
      I'm not entirely sure how the government expects students to pay this massive burden that is billed to them after graduation. Many people are placed on a payment plan for decades. I think that's horrible and certainly do not want to be one of those people. With colleges cost of attendance on the rise every year, many topping $30,000 students are regretting their college decisions. A way to reduce cost of student loans is to take classes at a community college during the first two years of your undergrad and get rid of those basic math and sciences. Then you can transfer to the college or university of your choice. Another way is to get grant money and financial aid. The earlier you apply for financial aid the more money you can receive. Now picture financial aid as a giant pot of money, those who apply early get to take the biggest handfuls out of the pot as they can and as more and more people take from the pot, the money inside decreases. Those students who apply later in the year for financial aid basically get the slim pickings that are left. So apply early and get good grades, that's the biggest tip I can offer to you.

Barack Obama Audio

 
 
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Cover the Night 2012
     I'm sure most of you have heard about the KONY 2012 movement that has become extraordinarily popular recently. If you haven't then continue reading as I'm about to fill you in on one of the fastest and most influential social movements as of late. The main point I want to get across is that Joseph Kony has been capturing the children of Uganda for years now and forcing them to commit ungodly crimes. Many of these children are stolen from their homes late at night away from their families and forced to kill their parents and siblings. The captured boys are placed into the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) as soldiers and the captured girls are sold in prostitution and slave trafficking. Joseph Kony is the leader of the LRA. 
     Invisible Children Inc. was created to serve and protect these children and many of the volunteers have devoted their lives to stopping Joseph Kony. Invisible Children Inc. would like to see Kony arrested for the crimes he has committed since 1986. Kony is thought to have over 85 wives and 44 children. 
     The KONY 2012 movement is intended to raise awareness to as many people in the world as possible in order to get Joseph Kony's name out and circulating. Invisible Children Inc. has produced a 30 minute video explaining more of the backstory and also goals that the organization wishes to accomplish. The video is listed below. 
    Another feature of KONY 2012 is the "Cover the Night" event that was held on April 20th 2012. This event, which is explained in the video, will take place around midnight on April 20th. Activists will cover their cities and towns with posters to raise awareness about Joseph Kony and the LRA. 
     Here at Kent State University we have an Invisible Children club and on April 20th myself and multiple students "covered the night" with posters and flyers in honor of the pursuit to capture Kony. Many cities around the world were involved as well as numerous politicians and celebrities.  

Click the photo above for a breakdown of expenses

     *UPDATE* The KONY 2012 social movement has faced a lot of speculation from stealing profits to Jason Russell's drunken street parade. I have heard first hand on campus from many students that the Invisible Children organization is stealing profits from volunteers and activists. Students believe that not all of the profits are going toward stopping the LRA and helping the children of Uganda but are actually going into the pockets of the top dogs of Invisible Children; including that of Jason Russell (founder of Invisible Children). I personally do not believe this to be true and even if they were profiting illegally by lets say 30%. then 70% would still go to the cause. However, that would be unethical. After researching the Invisible Children webpage I found that they include a finances tab that lists all financial statements of the organization. I encourage you all to check that section out and make up your own mind about the rumors. 
      Recently, Jason Russell, 33, was caught drunk in public one night in March. He was reportedly intoxicated and masturbating and sent to a mental institution. Now as horrible as this seems I don't think he deserves the ridicule he has been receiving. The man has done a tremendous amount of work and has involved much dedication to the KONY movement. From a sociologist perspective I try to take the good with the bad and I have a hard time believing that this man is a "monster". Jason Russell, the main character of the KONY 2012 videos (see below) has also been facing much stipulation about his mental state and ownership of his son, also starring in the video below. 
     To learn move about how you can get involved in the KONY 2012 movement please visit the Invisible Children website, just click the link I have provided. In their shop they sell t-shirts, bracelets, poster, and pins. They also sell action kits that include: a bunch of posters, a t-shirt, a pin, stickers, and two bracelets as well as an information packet. GET INVOLVED and spread the word!!!

Please watch the KONY 2012 video to help raise awareness of Joseph Kony.

 
 
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SWAT team in riot gear firing tear gas into the crowd of students
     On Saturday, April 21st Kent State students held their annual block party on college street that brought in over 3,000 people. The end of the year party required multiple police departments, a SWAT team, and medical professionals to finally shutdown the rager around 7pm on Saturday night. Reports of the police depart announcing "the party is over" on a loudspeaker triggered some of the drunken students to throw beer bottles and ever a basketball into the task forces. The police retaliated by introducing the students to tear gas and jail cells, the police arrested 33 people that night. Each Kent State University student found guilty at the Portage County could could be placed on probation or dismissed from the school. This raises an important question, was it worth it? I think not. 
     Something else to consider, we live in a social media and web based society. Multiple videos have surfaced of students throwing beer bottles at the authority which contains the students faces. It would be a logical guess that the police will be analyzing these tapes and pressing charges accordingly. I was browsing on the Kent State University website recently and I found a news update that stated police are looking to press charges against those in the video who are throwing bottles at the authorities. They are asking students to report any names that can be found in the video so that the matter can be taken to the Portage County court.
 I'm sure the families and senior citizens within the community were not happy with the trashed neighborhood and rowdy drunks; families were scared to let their children out of their homes Saturday afternoon because of the yearly event. 
     Many of the students feel they have been ripped off on what was supposed to be a great night full of beer, sex, and violence. The students are now planning a SECOND Collegefest block party this Saturday the 28th. Look for an update early next week for a followup. 
    

 

WARNING: This video contains strong language 

 
 
     Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated recently that he will be working toward decreasing the ever rising gang violence within the IL community. Reports of a 60% increase in Homicides have sparked a heated debate about what should be done. Mayor Emanuel would like to see a number of liquor stores close and tougher gun license policies come into place. Topping the list of gang related violence is that of African American males within the Garfield, Little Village, and Englewood communities. The gang on gang violence between African American males is corrupting the sense of security that Mayor Emanuel and his legislation are working towards, this being so, Rahm is putting thought into deploying more police to the streets of Chicago.
     If you think that this does not concern you, then think again! Gang violence is escalated by the police believe it or not, if Mayor Emanuel plans on sending more police forces to the streets this may actually increase gang violence in retaliation, as well as irritating the surround citizens. Another point to be made is that if police forces are placed on the streets then they will be removed from other factions of the criminal systems. What I mean here is that if Mayor Emanuel places 150 police officers to resolve gang violence he will be removing 150 officers from other positions such as highway safety, domestic disturbances, drug related offenses, and more. Unless Mayor Emanuel hires all these new officers that he plans to send to end the ever growing gang violence problem then he will only be limiting the other positions of the criminal system. 
     I plan on attending my graduate schooling in the Chicago area and after reading this article I felt very worried. A 60% rise of homicides is nothing short of scary, please visit the Contact page of my blog and let me know your opinion or comment below
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     Earlier in April the US department of Education constructed an action plan for post-secondary schools that will begin to change the way that community colleges measure their institution and student success rates. Until recently, institutions have been assessing their schools full-time, 4 year enrolled student graduation rates. However, this assessment does not account for all of the students enrolled at community colleges, students enrolled part-time and transfer students are a large minority that is not accounted for. 
     The Plan considered by the US department of Education is to require community colleges to provide and measure student success of not only the full-time, 4 year graduating students; but also the part-time and transfer students. The idea behind this will provide society with a better understanding of post-secondary educational success from all minority groups unaccounted for prior the new assessments. 
     This is a topic I will soon be able to relate to very easily. The summer of 2012 I will be taking summer courses at a local community college in order to graduate on time at my University. Many students choose to do this because the classes are cheap and their credits transfer. After learning that many students are not counted in the assessment of graduates of a post-secondary school I was slightly concerned. I almost feel like if I'm paying to go to your school, then I should be counted in the demographic; which many students are not according to the article. 
    Hopefully, once post-secondary schools change their procedures for accurately accounting for their demographic the inequality will vanish.