Poisonous Politics

One of last year’s elections featured a poisoned candidate, rumors about his sexual exploits and massive voter fraud.
And, for once, it didn’t take place in the United States.
On Jan. 24, after months of citizen rebellion and international attention, Viktor Yushchenko was sworn in as Ukraine’s third president. Yushchenko’s opponent, Ukraine’s former prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, was defeated by the public because of his administration’s alleged ties to the former Soviet Union. People around the world, including MSU students and East Lansing residents, are considering this election as a major victory for freedom.
“People in the U.S. are really happy and really hopeful for the future of Ukraine,” MSU graduate Pete Maziak said. Maziak and other members of the Ukrainian Club of MSU were satisfied with Yanukovych’s defeat on Jan. 10th.
[ukr] “[Yanukovych] was going to tie Ukraine back to Russia,” said Andrew Bluj, another member of the Uki Club. “He would eventually turn Ukraine back to a communist nation.” Although Ukraine has been an independent nation since 1991, some Ukrainian citizens have felt that the country has maintained too many close ties to Russia.
The entire election fiasco began with the first election on Oct. 31, 2004, when neither Yanukovych nor Yushchenko could generate the 50 percent voter margin needed for a victory. A run-off election was held later on Nov. 21 between the two candidates. Although Yanukovych was declared the winner, some voters reported difficulties in areas where Yushchenko was expected to win. It was later discovered that in places where Yanukovych was strong, there were voter turnouts of over 100 percent, which indicated massive voter fraud. In one particular area, there was a voter turnout reported of 127 percent.
Yushchenko supporters, under the name of the “Orange Revolution,” took to the streets, blocking entrances to the Ukrainian capitol. The protests and the voter fraud allegations caused the Ukrainian Supreme Court to declare the November election results to be void, and a new election was held on Dec. 26th. Yushchenko was declared the winner of that election by a margin of 8 percent.
But between the November and December elections, Yushchenko revealed that he had been poisoned with a deadly chemical called dioxin. He accused the Security Service of Ukraine of poisoning his soup at a dinner on Sept. 5. Yushchenko suffered from a rash of chemical acne, which permanently disfigured his face. He reported his illness soon after the dinner, but the opposition government called it the flu, and at one point, insinuated that the candidate had a severe case of herpes.
[poison] “I’m not surprised that it happened,” said human biology junior Adrian Pichurko. “It was the same way the USSR was run. It’s pretty predictable.”
Yanukovych conceded the election on Dec. 31 after a failed court appeal. Leaders from around the world, including President Bush, have confirmed their support for the new Ukrainian government. Yushchenko has said that he plans on forming closer ties with the United States, as well as keeping ties with Russia. But advertising senior Nina Prybula doubts Yushchenko’s willingness to cooperate with Russia.
“If he said he was going to cut ties, there would be a civil war,” said Prybula.
What lies ahead for Ukraine is unclear. There will need to be reconstruction on both a political and social level. But advocates for a democratic planet are extremely hopeful.

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Elections for Dummies

Election Day is less than one week away, which means if you haven’t already picked your presidential candidate, now would be the time. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get down to the issues without getting distracted by all the campaign buzz-words. If you haven’t been paying attention to the debates and endless speeches, there are a few election phrases that you may have missed. Here’s a no-brainer look at six of the most common talking points of the election.
[voting] Note: The goal here isn’t to give a fully detailed explanation of the issues in the upcoming election. Instead, you should know what these phrases mean, and why they are important to you.
“Draft”
Given the rate at which American troops are dying in Iraq, and the lack of manpower existing ever since the early days of the war, there seems to be a massive need for new troops. Military enlistment is low and officials are extending tours of duty for those already in Iraq. Men and women are needed to help with police enforcement, protection, and reconstruction in Iraq. The only solution seems to be a draft. Both President Bush and Senator Kerry recognize the growing need for new manpower in the area. During the Vietnam War, the draft was used, but most college students were exempt. However, there are rumblings that the college restriction may be lifted if there is a new draft. Neither candidate seems to be in favor of a military draft, but this doesn’t make it any less likely to occur if either Bush or Kerry is elected.
“Patriot Act”
In October 2001, both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the USA Patriot Act, whose purpose was to “deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes.” Opponents of the Patriot Act believe that it violates Constitutional rights by giving exceptional powers to various levels of government. President Bush insists that the Patriot Act is vital in preventing another terrorist attack because it allows better communication within law-enforcement organizations. In the second debate, Bush said that terrorist cells have already been neutralized because of the Act. Senator Kerry said in the second debate that the Patriot Act should be reformed, but not necessarily scrapped.
“Weapons of Mass Destruction”
The main justification for the invasion of Iraq was the belief that Saddam Hussein and his government had weapons of mass destruction, had the ability to build weapons of mass destruction, and had the intent to distribute them to terrorist organizations. The term includes both nuclear and biological weapons. John Kerry, along with many other senators, voted to invade Iraq, based on information that was given by the Bush administration. However, there is no evidence that the U.S. military has found any weapons of mass destruction, nor any evidence that Iraq possessed any such weapons before the war.
“Flip-Flop”
John Kerry’s biggest disadvantage has been his Senate voting record. He voted to go to war in Iraq and he voted for the Patriot Act. But in this election, he has attacked the President on both of these issues. Bush/Cheney ads have used the phrase ‘flip-flop’ to define Kerry as a noncommittal politician. Kerry’s main defense, given in the first debate, is that he is only guilty of putting too much faith into the President.
“Pre-emptive Military Action”
The Bush administration defined U.S. actions in Iraq as a ‘pre-emptive military action.’ In other words, the United States acted in Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from attacking America in the future. However, there has been little evidence to prove the claim that Iraq possessed the materials capable of attacking the U.S. No WMD’s have been found, and an accurate link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaida has yet to be uncovered.
“Civil Unions”
Both Sen. Kerry and President Bush oppose gay marriage. President Bush has said on many occasions that he will ‘protect the sanctity of marriage,’ meaning he will preserve legislation that prevents gays from having the right to marry and will support bans on gay marriage. Senator Kerry, however, supports civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

For more information, visit the candidate’s websites at www.georgewbush.com and www.johnkerry.com.

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Breaking Down The Language Barrier

There’s an old joke about foreign languages: “If you speak three languages, you’re trilingual. If you speak two languages, you’re bilingual. If you speak one language, well then you’re probably an American.”
It’s not a very patriotic joke, but it’s almost true. It is a socially accepted fact that Americans are known for only speaking English. Some call this stubborn, but others say that learning an entirely new language is just too hard, especially as you get older. But many MSU students become fluent in a new language within a few years. [language]
“I started kind of liking it, although at first I hated it,” mathematics junior Angela Olandese said, who has been studying Spanish since 8th grade. “It gets easier as you go on.”
Many students start learning a new language because it’s a school requirement. However, most high schools that have language requirements only call for two or three years of language classes, which sadly doesn’t guarantee any fluency. But a good percentage of these students continue studying the language as an elective.
“My high school only offered French and Spanish, and since I already had a bit of a head-start on French, I went that route,” French junior Brandi Klotz said. “After my first year of high school French, I kept studying it because it became a goal of mine to speak another language, and French just sounds cool.”
There are many ways to make learning a second language easier. Flash cards and Post-Its on household objects are the obvious choices. But some people believe that becoming immersed in that language leads to better retention. Obviously throwing yourself into an entirely new culture with no previous knowledge of the language isn’t the best idea, but around East Lansing, you could find a ‘language buddy.’ Microbiology and molecular genetics graduate student Christina Harzman recommends finding a conversation partner.[phrases]
“There are so many international students on campus, it’s impossible not to find one that speaks that language,” Harzman said. Harzman has been speaking Spanish since she was 12, when she lived in Mexico. For her, becoming immersed in the language helped her to learn it.
For some students, there are more unusual ways of learning the language.
“If you associate bad words with [foreign] words, you will never forget them,” said Olandese.
The best part about knowing a second language is the chances that you’re given to use it. MSU has a huge selection of study abroad programs that give students the opportunity to observe entirely different cultures all over the world. Harzman has visited over 20 countries. But learning the language for a classroom and for an international trip are two different things.
“The most important phrases to learn are ‘thank you’ and ‘where is the bathroom,’” Harzman said. “Knowing phrases like ‘I am cold’ are important because it shows your needs, so others can help you. You’d be surprised how much your body language helps.”
Being absolutely fluent isn’t a necessity when visiting a foreign country. In Western European countries and in parts of Mexico you can get by with a general understanding, because tourist traffic is high and the locals often speak English. But this doesn’t mean you should go without any knowledge at all.
“It’s most efficient to have a basic understanding,” mathematics graduate student Joerg Enders said. “Use the language as far as you can.”
In places where Americans aren’t so well accepted, it’s a good idea to conform to the culture as much as you can. It helps to know, at the very least, key phrases. “You should learn some basics in vocabulary and grammar,” said Klotz. “It will make things easier on yourself while traveling, and you won’t be criticized as much or as severely as the ‘stupid American tourist,’ which is a very cruel stereotype.”
But some students are worried about the “ugly American” stereotype overseas. Recent events, namely the war in Iraq, have made acceptance of Americans difficult, especially in places like Europe. “Recent conflict has stereotyped us negatively,” says Harzman. “But if you have the courage to try, you can have a good dialogue.”
“If you think about it, it makes sense to learn something before going to different countries,” said Klotz. “After all, we criticize foreigners who come here and don’t know English, saying things like, ‘if you come to our country, you speak our language.’ It should go both ways.”
It’s strange to think that other people around the world do not have the same ideas on language as America does. Joerg Enders, for example, was born and raised in Germany. For Enders and his classmates, it was a requirement to learn English. This is not uncommon for European schools to require students to learn languages other than their national language. Even in Canada, it’s unusual to find someone that doesn’t have a general understanding of French.
“In [most parts] of America, you can travel 1000 miles north and 1000 miles south, and it’s still the same language,” noted Enders.
When you think about it, it’s odd that in America, where there is no designated national language, we do not require all students to learn another language. Logic would say that students should have a decent understand of Spanish, seeing as how Hispanics are the largest minority in the country today.
Speaking a second language does more than give you the opportunity to visit other countries. Knowledge of a foreign language can open many doors for college students. More and more businesses are asking for bilingual employees to serve as representatives overseas and close international deals. Having that extra language on your resumé can be helpful, especially for government jobs. In some states, teachers are required to know both English and Spanish. Most EMS dispatch officers have at least a general knowledge of Spanish, as do police officers and fire fighters.
With technology and transportation expanding every day, it’s no secret that the world is getting smaller. Although knowing a second language isn’t a written requirement for all Americans (yet), one can’t help but note that eventually everyone will have to know a second language to get by in this country, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead of excluding people because of their language, we can start including people. Nature dictates that the language barrier must fall.
Help can be found at the MSU College of Arts and Letters website (http://www.cal.msu.edu) and at the National Capital Language Resource Center site (http://www.nclrc.org/essentials).

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Out of the Conservative Closet

You know a Republican when you see one. They’ve got those big ten-gallon hats, always wearing a side-arm, possibly burning something and negatively shaking their finger at you. They’re easy to spot in a crowd, especially here at MSU, right?
Erin Mazurie, speech pathology junior, likes going to parties on the weekends and hanging out with her friends. She believes that if you love someone, regardless of gender, you should be able to marry them. Erin is a liberal Republican.
Yes, there is such a thing as a liberal Republican. Erin says that she is about as liberal on most issues as a person can get without being a Democrat. “For me, it comes down to abortion,” Mazurie said. “I just can’t get behind that.” But don’t be so surprised by Erin’s open admission that she is a Republican on a fairly liberal campus like Michigan State. She’s not alone.
[gop]On September 19, 2004, when Barbara and Jenna Bush, daughters of President George W. Bush, visited MSU to speak before a private audience, more than 300 Republican students welcomed them. According to the twins’ online journal, MSU has the third largest Students for Bush organization in the country.
Recently, both the College Republicans and the MSU Students for Bush organizations had their first meetings with respectable attendances. Meredith Phillis, communications director for Students for Bush, said the turnouts have been great. “There are so many conservatives on campus here,” Phillis said, an education sophomore. “It’s great to see the support for the President.”
For some students at MSU, there might be a shock over the number of Republican students that attend classes here. One person recently told me, “I just don’t get it. I mean, college is for progressive thinking.” So isn’t it difficult to be a conservative on a liberal campus?
“I wouldn’t say that being a Republican is difficult,” Phillis said. “I like being a Republican. But sometimes it’s hard to say you’re a Republican without being bombarded.”
“It depends on if I’m going to be harassed or not,” Mazurie said on when she explains her opinions on political issues. “When you start telling me I can’t think the way I do, I have issues with you. As long as you are prepared to respectfully defend your beliefs, I’ll discuss mine.” [page]
There is no doubt that conservative views are met with major hostility here on campus. In fact, there are some places where being a conservative is seen as so atrocious that people have to hide their views. In response to major Hollywood support for the Democratic Party, the Bush campaign recently distributed a list of celebrities who were supporting the President. Some of the celebrities listed, like Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, neither denied nor confirmed that they supported the President. Mandy Moore, who was listed as a Bush supporter, was so angry over the list that she released a statement saying “I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Republican.” Sound familiar? But the same hostility is held for those with liberal views in religious and conservative areas. On several network news stations and in much of Michigan the word liberal is virtually synonymous with an insult. But why is there so much frustration over a conflict of views?
“Back when I was growing up, Republicans weren’t the ‘bad guys.’ You had at least one in your family.”
When Michael Moore said this in front of a packed MSU Auditorium on September 30, you could literally see the entire crowd cock its collective head to the right. Just moments before, these students were booing the protesting Republicans out front, and now they had learned that they did not used to be so horrible. Some students were shocked.
You, too, might be asking yourself, “Republicans were… good people??? They weren’t always greedy, racist, sexist, gun-toting religious fanatics? What the hell happened to them? When was this Golden Age of American politics? This had to have been long ago, because surely Republicans aren’t good people now.”
So when did Republicans stop being good people? Here’s a better question; when did they start becoming ‘bad people’? Why do Republicans, or Democrats, have to be the ‘bad guys’? Too much emphasis has been placed on ‘who should win’ and not enough has been placed on ‘why’.
The problem exists on both sides. Both the College Republicans and the MSU Democrats are too focused on mimicking party fights rather than using any method of reasoning to explain each other’s views.
Michigan State shouldn’t be seen as a liberal campus, it should be seen as a political campus. Conservatives shouldn’t be afraid to voice their opinions, and liberals shouldn’t be afraid to hear them.

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