American Injustice (by Jenn Horton)

One summer a few years back, my sister and I met some new people at the beach. One of our newfound friends mistook her for me. Our similar features occasionally make it difficult for those who don’t know us to tell us apart. Unfortunately, mistaken identity is not always something you can fix with a laugh and a friendly reminder. To some, it means the difference between a life-altering accusation and the truth, existing as the number-one cause of wrongful criminal convictions.
Behaviors such as neglecting to pursue alternative suspects and not being provided with efficient counsel play a huge role in the outcome of a defendant’s trial. This was seen recently in the case of a Grand Rapids man who was just released after serving 13 years for a murder he did not commit. He was ultimately hurt by photographs which were not presented at trial, as well as the existence of a suggested suspect who no one bothered to follow up on.
The occurrence of wrongful convictions grows much more serious when it involves those who have been sentenced to death. Of the 50 states, only 12 do not have the death penalty, including Michigan. Human biology junior Joe Griffith supports the standpoint that Michigan holds regarding this issue. “Under any circumstance, I do not think that the taking someone’s life is a necessary form of punishment,” he said. The remaining 38 states condone the death penalty under specific circumstances, the federal government not withstanding. Kaveh Kashef, an Oakland County attorney, shares the views of these other 38 states, agreeing the death penalty should be enforced. “In the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution it states, ‘…nor shall any state deprive a person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law,’” Kashef said. “The implication from that statement is that ‘life’ can be ‘deprived’ as long as the person has ‘due process of law,’ which is our court system.”
These two components combined, wrongful convictions and the death penalty, present a frightening question. How many innocent people have been sentenced to death? How many have actually been executed? Since 1973, there have been 119 people exonerated from death row. 119 who were incorrectly sentenced to die. Oops.
The thought of this occurring seems unlikely, but it is not improbable. How could someone be falsely accused of committing a crime they did not have any part in? Surely if a case has gone far enough to convict a person or persons, they must have had some affiliation in the incident that occurred. Or did they? As unbelievable as it may seem to many, people have been known to falsely admit to crimes they did not commit. Assumptions as to how this may happen lie in issues related to suggestion from others and intense interrogation from the police. If there are other persons involved in a particular case, the false confession of a co-defendant can sometimes be used for the affiliated party. As previously mentioned, the incorrect identification of a suspect by a witness is the most prominent issue. It is not uncommon for a victim or witness to feel they must pick someone from a line-up, confident the person with the most similar characteristics must be the perpetrator they are seeking.
It becomes even more disappointing with the realization that certain situations could have been prevented. Not only that, but people who know nothing of the suspected/convicted may be working against them. Snitches are not uncommon among prison inmates and are often likely to participate in something that will benefit them. These are people who will falsely testify and/or accuse if they will be compensated in some manner, by making deals with people who can better their situations. Misconduct by authorities involved with a case is an additional factor in convicting the innocent. Sound familiar? Within the last few weeks there has been much talk and public footage of the speculated misconduct concerning students and the police after the MSU men’s basketball finals. It was MSU students that were expected to create chaos, when in fact, many of those arrested were not even affiliated with the school. Don’t be blind to the reality that varying circumstances allow each and every person to be vulnerable to a wrongful conviction of some sort.
In our society’s quest to find the truth when dealing with matters of law, the use of improving technology has been helpful, allowing the testing and identification of DNA to rule out most people who have been found innocent, and in some cases, identify the actual criminal. The most recognized organization dedicated to exonerating the innocent is The Innocence Project, a pro bono establishment dedicated to proving innocent those who have been falsely convicted through DNA testing. The center was opened in 1992 in New York City and has since exonerated 157 people. For additional information, please visit www.InnocenceProject.org.
After taking in all this information, it seems almost ironic that the United States has one of the most prestigious legal systems in the world. It also makes you wonder how matters such as these are dealt with elsewhere. There are many countries that don’t even require a serious crime to put their citizens to death and will punish people without certainty of guilt. Throughout the years, it has been the people of our own country who have decided upon the laws and regulations that dictate the consequences of people’s actions.
Dietetics junior Rachel Hill believes our legal system can always be improved, but says these regulations, as they stand now, are what we need to work with. “It’s so important to select unbiased people for our juries and have multiple people testify in every case,” she said. “These factors make it less likely for incorrect results. This does not only include people who are wrongfully convicted, but also those who are guilty and wrongfully set free.”
Considering his standpoint in previous years, Kashef has not changed his views and beliefs concerning the legal system since becoming a lawyer, and he remains strong in his faith that justice will be attained as was intended. “Because [the legal system] is run by the citizens, and the citizens are humans, mistakes will be made,” he said. “We try to include as many checks, balances, rules and procedures to minimize and catch mistakes, but sometimes they will get through.”
Kinesiology senior Tony Schuster agrees with Kashef’s statement. “I realize that the system isn’t perfect and there will always be flaws,” he said. “But as a whole I feel that it will generally carry out procedures in the anticipated manner with accurate results.”

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Capital Punishment (by Jenn Horton)

One summer a few years back, my sister and I met some new people at the beach. One of our newfound friends mistook her for me. Those who know us well find our features to be somewhat similar, but have never had a single problem differentiating the two of us. The point of this story is to point out that mistaken identity is not always something you can fix with a chuckle and reminder. To some it means the difference between a life altering accusation and the truth, existing as the number one cause of wrongful crime convictions.
The thought of this occurring seems unlikely, which it is, but not improbable. How could someone be falsely accused of committing a crime they did not take any part in? Surely if a case has gone far enough to convict a person or persons, they must have had some affiliation in the incident that occurred. Or did they? As unbelievable as it may seem, people have been known to falsely admit to crimes they did not commit. Assumptions as to how this may happen lie in issues related to suggestion and intense interrogation from the police. If there are other persons involved in a particular case, the false confession of a co-defendant can sometimes be used for the affiliated party. As previously mentioned, the incorrect identification from a witness is the most prominent issue. It is not uncommon for a victim or witness to feel that they must pick someone from a line up, confident that the person with the most similar characteristics must be the perpetrator they are looking for.
It becomes even more disappointing with the realization that certain situations could have been prevented and that others may be working against them. Behavior such as neglecting to pursue alternative suspects and the lack of efficient counsel play a huge role in the result of the case of the defendant, as was the case with a Grand Rapids man who was just released after serving 13 years for a murder he did not commit. Photographs not presented at trial, as well as a suggested suspect who was not looked into, ultimately inhibited him.
The occurrence of wrongful convictions becomes much more serious when it involves those who have been sentenced to death. Of the 50 states, only 12 do not have the death penalty, including Michigan. Human biology junior, Joe Griffith, supports the standpoint that Michigan holds regarding this issue. “Under any circumstance, I do not think that taking someone’s life is a necessary form of punishment,” he said. The remaining 38 states condone the death penalty under specific circumstances, not withholding the U.S. government. Kaveh Kashef, an Oakland County attorney, shares the views of these other 38 states, “In the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution it states: ‘nor shall any state deprive a person of LIFE, liberty, or property, without due process of law.’ The implication from that statement is that ‘life’ can be ‘deprived’ as long as the person has ‘due process of law,’ which is our court system.”
These two components combined, wrongful convictions and the death penalty, present a frightening question. How many innocent people have been sentenced to death? How many have actually been executed? Since 1973, there have been 119 people exonerated from death row. 119 people who were incorrectly sentenced to their deaths. Oops.
The use of improving technology has been ever so helpful, allowing the testing and identification of DNA to out-rule most people who have been found innocent and in some cases, identify the actual criminal. The most recognized organization dedicated to exonerating the innocent is The Innocence Project, a pro-bono establishment dedicated to proving innocent those who have been falsely convicted through DNA testing. The center was opened in 1992 in New York City and has since exonerated 157 people. For additional information please visit www.innocenceproject.org.
After ingesting all of this information, it is almost ironic that the United States has one of the most prestigious legal systems in the world. It also makes you wonder how matters such as these are dealt with elsewhere. There are many countries that don’t even require a serious crime to put their citizens to death. Throughout the years it has been the people of our own country who have decided upon the laws and regulations that dictate the consequences of people’s actions. Kashef has not changed his views and beliefs concerning the legal system since becoming a lawyer and remains strong in his faith that justice will regularly be attained as was intended. “Because it is run by the citizens (the legal system), and the citizens are humans, mistakes will be made. We try to include as many checks, balances, rules, and procedures to minimize and catch mistakes, but sometimes they will get through.” Kinesiology senior, Tony Schuster agrees with that statement, “I realize that the system isn’t perfect and there will always be flaws, but as a whole I feel that it will generally carry out procedures in the anticipated manner with accurate results.”

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Mae-hem In East Lansing

They’ve toured with the Vans Warped Tour, changed guitar players, recorded two CDs and a follow up B-sides album, and on Thursday, March 5th, the indie-rock band Mae finally visited the utopia that is Michigan State University.[group]
Named after the drummer’s undergraduate philosophical theories at Virginia’s Old Dominion University, Mae is actually an acronym for “Multisensory Aesthetic Experience.” Their melodic indie rock sound has been resonating throughout the American music circuit since 2001, with the abstract goal of demonstrating “what music would look or taste like,” said Jacob Marshall, the group’s drummer and one of the original founding members. This spring, the band is on a tour to promote their upcoming album Everglow to be released later this month.
“It’s the entire essence of what we wanted to accomplish,” Jacob explained when asked about Everglow before the band’s show at MSU’s Union Ballroom.
Dave Gimenez, the lead singer, and admittedly “the most obnoxious group member,” is flattered when Mae is frequently compared to bands like Jimmy Eat World, but thinks that fans will be impressed with the new sound of the upcoming CD, a follow-up to 2003’s Destination: Beautiful . “We sound a lot more like Slipknot,” he joked.
Putting together a second album has had unique challenges. “It’s not easy,” Dave said. “It takes a whole lot out of a band to write a record…it’s like the band is starting all over again.” As if they have any energy left, they are scheduled to tour nonstop until early June. But they agree that it’s almost every band’s goal to be on the road every day.
[concert] Playing shows across the nation has “made the country seem smaller” to Zach Gehring, the guitarist and “funniest band member,” in particular, but they all seem to take the changing scenery in stride. The only phenomena that they can’t seem to understand are the “guy stalkers” and the “Jersey girls who come to like 50 shows,” but laugh them off and agree that touring is the best part of being in a band.
But, choosing a particular memorable experience from their cross country travels in their van is nearly impossible for Dave. “Tour is like one big funny moment,” he said, adding that it’s easier to think of a humorous moment of the day, rather than from the whole tour. For instance, “Mark didn’t go to sleep last night. He sat in the lobby of the hotel and studied a bass theory book,” he said, laughing, referring to the group’s quiet blond bassist, who just shrugged and insisted that he doesn’t pull all-nighters to study musical theory every evening.
As they passed through the city, East Lansing reminded some of Mae’s members of their own college years before they exchanged higher education for a career in music. “Stay in school!” Dave joked. He dropped out of Old Dominion University after one-and-a-half years because he knew that his passions lay elsewhere. “I failed Computer Science 101, like where they teach you how to use a mouse, because it was at eight o’clock in the morning,” he said, adding that he couldn’t wake up early enough to make it on time. Ironically, now the band often has to be up and on the road at the same time that his computer class started.
Other than waking up early, one of the band’s biggest challenges thus far has been finding a niche and identity as a secular band linked to a label, Tooth and Nail Records, often associated with Christian artists. “At one time it was a Christian label, so people think that their bands are Christian bands,” Dave explained.
“We’re in the business of selling music, not Jesus,” Jacob said.
“It would be more sacrilegious to sell it,” Zach added.
“Tell all of your Jewish friends that,” Dave said, smiling.
[everyday] Information about Mae can still be found on Christian music Web sites, but the band concentrates more on its own musical growth than on misconceptions of its mission in the artistic world.
Everglow includes a lot of firsts for them, production-wise, and “was more of a band effort” than their debut Destination: Beautiful, according to Mark. Destination: Beautiful was actually produced in a shed behind a warehouse in Virginia.
“It could have been worse,” said Jacob, but the only positive that the band could come up with regarding this original “studio” was that there weren’t boxes of screwdrivers lying around their performance space. But this time around, they said that they welcomed the help and criticism of professional producers.
“I think we’ve all grown up a lot, just learning a lot about life as individuals,” said Dave, reflecting on the band’s humble beginnings in his hometown of Virginia Beach. “Probably two years from now we’ll have gained a whole lot, and there will be a whole lot more unanswered questions that we’ll have to sit down and try to figure out.”
As Jacob put it, “we’re opening a new chapter now.”

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Shares Well with Others (by Beth Skubisz)

Alleged file sharers hail from all over the world, but college campuses remain primary targets for record industries as they target illegal downloaders. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has heightened its attack on the youth of America in recent weeks by suing 68 individuals on college campuses for sharing music files. MSU is a hot spot for record labels looking to bust computer users for illegal possession of music files. Students are easy prey — we use a campus-wide server and our speedy Internet connections facilitate fast downloading. Angry corporations now consider colleges the root of the music downloading epidemic. But how can students differentiate between files that can get them arrested and files that can simply introduce them to a new genre of music?
[fein] Amid all this controversy, there is a way to obtain music online without fear of a court battle and staggering fines. In cyberspace, legally downloadable MP3s actually exist. Up-and-coming bands utilize this service to promote their music and accumulate a wider fan base.
Kevin Fein is a guitarist for Lavonne Vanschron, an East Lansing-based band. He explained new groups often post MP3s on a Web site to gain exposure. “Basically, your options as a brand-new band are either give away your music to get people to hear you or sell your music to your friends who hear you anyway, with that being the end of the road,” Fein said.
For a band to survive, Fein explained, each album needs to be treated as a product. Only after building a large and supportive fan base can a band fund bigger projects. Internet downloads allow local bands to achieve this success.
There are many myths about how to dance around the delicate boundaries of file sharing. In the past, users thought if a file did not have a copyright notice, then the file was not, in fact, copyrighted. But laws now state users cannot assume files do not fall under copyright. Apparently, the RIAA is not going to lose a case based on a technicality.
Margaret Vroman, an adjunct associate for the MSU College of Law and assistant city attorney for the city of Lansing, specializes in cyberlaw and the enforcement of intellectual property rights. According to Vroman, the act of file sharing is not illegal, but taking unauthorized copyright information is. Vroman said anything with a creative tangible form is legally copyrighted. For instance, if a songwriter composes a single line of music, those notes becomes his property in that context.
File sharing is a dangerous game to play against music executives with deep pockets and a thirst for collegiate blood. Sharing unauthorized music can result in large financial burdens and even jail time. Try saving your limited student wealth to buy a CD and support your artist of choice. But if you absolutely cannot resist the urge to download, scour the ‘Net for obscure bands who actually want you to pick up their music for free.

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Trophy Guitar

Fridays before my guitar lessons, I park my car a block away from the music store just so I can strut down the sidewalk toting my Washburn acoustic by my side. The street before me is my private runway. I appear apathetic to the pedestrians glancing at my bulky, six-string sidekick. I hope they are wondering about my talent, my aspirations, my rock ‘n’ roll career. My guitar ceases to be a musical instrument and becomes a prop, an accessory completing my carefully calculated image.
[sally1] The passers-by need not know my guitar was a Hanukkah present from my parents during my freshman year of college and that the only things I can play are a few measures from “Free Falling” by Tom Petty and a mean rendition of “When The Saints Go Marching In.” Just when their suspicions are aroused that I might be a fraud, I duck into Quinn’s Music and continue the charade before a new group of people. I recognize the employee at the counter.
“Hey Brian, what’s up?”
“Just holdin’ down the fort ‘til my dad gets back from lunch,” Brian says. We went to high school together; he was a people-person, the class clown everybody liked, now taking over the family business. He never really spoke to me during our math class together years before, but my guitar now makes me someone worth knowing.
“Are you here for your lesson? I think Nathan is just finishing up with someone downstairs,” he says.
“Yeah, but actually, since I’m up here, I was thinking about buying a capo,” I say.
“We’ve got a few here in the display case.” He reaches under the glass counter and hands me a shiny metallic device. “So were you looking for an elastic one, or a quick-change standard steel string capo? This one’s about $20, but it’s very high quality. ”
I’m caught. I don’t know if $20 is an appropriate price to pay for a tool I barely know how to use. Then I wonder if my strings are, in fact, steel. All I know is that a capo clamps onto the neck of the guitar and changes the sounds of the strings, but I can hardly play anything on them the way they are now. I stare at Brian, perplexed, and at a loss for words. Maybe this search is too hard. I need to think of a way to escape. My palms sweat.
“Well, I think I want the quick-change one,” I say as I finger through the gum wrappers and grocery store receipts cluttering my purse, and think of a lie instead. “Damnit…I left my wallet at home. I think I’m going to have to buy it next week.”
[sally2] I chat with Brian for a few moments longer, if only to prolong my presence in the store, trying to look like a regular customer to the other shoppers, which, in reality, I am not. As I descend the stairs to meet my guitar tutor, I hope Brian will forget our capo conversation by next Friday, just like he forgot that I sat behind him in eleventh grade trigonometry.
My weekly lessons are held in a tiny office in Quinn’s unfinished basement. Advertisements for Fender and Yamaha decorate the walls and bare lightbulbs suspended from the ceiling illuminate the underground studio. I sit in a folding chair outside the office and listen through the wall as Nathan Myers offers advice to a student.
“You should be practicing at least every other day, otherwise we won’t see any improvement,” he advises. He has a droning voice like the man in the Visine commercials. “I want you to be playing ‘Hall of the Mountain King’ by the next lesson.”
A smirk spreads across my face as I realize I mastered ‘Hall of the Mountain King’ two weeks ago. I must be fairly skilled, after all. Just then, the door to the office creaks open and a nine-year-old girl walks out. I am more than 10 years this kid’s senior, but I am only two weeks ahead of her in my musicianship. She has a better chance of becoming a rock star than I do. It’s not fair.
“You’re up next, Sally,” Nathan calls. He looks at me through thick glasses behind shaggy salt-and-pepper hair. He is a seasoned veteran of music education, with 15 years experience as a guitar teacher. I imagine him as a hippie back in the ‘60s, but years of fatherhood and day-jobs have turned him into a straight-laced family man.
“I brought in some tabs,” I announce as I remove my guitar from its black nylon case. “They’re by The Starting Line. I downloaded them this afternoon.” I hand the stack of paper to Nathan.
“So you just got this off the Internet?” he says, staring at the series of hyphens, numbers and symbols dotting the pages before him.
[sally3] “I was hoping you could help me learn how to play a couple of their songs. They sound pretty easy,” I say, sensing Nathan is not satisfied.
“Well, I can’t teach tabs unless I am familiar with the actual song. There are no rhythms, no time signatures, nothing, on any of this.”
“That’s why I brought in their CD.”
“No, no I don’t want to listen to that,” he hastily responds. I am confused. He can’t teach me the song without audio assistance, but he refuses the CD when it is offered. Odd. “It’s all just power chords. That’s all they play in pop music. It’s not original, it’s just a formula to get famous.”
Nathan likes to complain about modern music. Granted, The Starting Line is a classic example of the whiny, diluted punk music dominating the airways, but that doesn’t mean I should boycott them.
“The only respectable guitarist of today is Dave Matthews,” Nathan concludes.
“I love Dave Matthews,” I quickly chime in. “But I thought his music would be too difficult for me at this point.”
“It is.” Nathan picks up his own guitar, an ancient acoustic Fender, and starts playing a complicated but catchy jazz tune. It is not by the Dave Matthews Band, but I smile, pretending to recognize it. Nathan closes his eyes, and his head sways back and forth while he runs his pick over the strings. His foot taps a steady beat on the ground.
“That was a piece written by Henry Mancini,” he informs me as he finishes playing. “One of the greatest composers of all time. He wrote the theme to ‘The Pink Panther.’”
[sally4] I check the clock, and realize that 10 minutes have passed since my lesson began. It was about time for the weekly ode to Henry Mancini. Nathan’s dream is to see all his pupils strive to master the works of Mancini, not The Starting Line.
“I’ll show you how to play the power chords of this ‘finish line’ song but don’t bring in tabs like this again,” he warns. I think I have insulted him by wasting his expertise on such mediocre music. Next time, bring a Led Zeppelin guitar solo, I tell myself.
The remaining 20 minutes of our lesson are spent drilling exercises in Progressive Guitar Methods, a workbook for beginners like myself. I hate it. It is filled with songs with bland titles like “8 Bar Blues” and “Three-String Blues.” Nathan loves the blues. Since graduating from “Hall of the Mountain King,” he has been drilling the G-scale into my mind, because apparently, it is the root of the most basic blues rifts.
“I started writing a song,” I admit. “I’m using A, D, E and a variation of D-minor for the main chords.”
“Good, good.” Nathan’s monotone does not convey any enthusiasm. “Many musicians have made up songs based on the progressive blues scale, you know.” He plays an impromptu solo, and then continues talking about the importance of blues. He never asks to hear my song.
“I have a very promising student that you should listen to before you go home,” Nathan suggests. “He’s coming in right after you and I are finished. He only has a lesson once a month just to touch base with me. He’s been playing guitar for about five years.”
“He’s got nothing on me,” I joke. Nathan manages a smile. I am curious to meet this guitar prodigy. I envision a handsome 20-something with unruly brown curls and deep, brooding eyes.
A 14-year-old boy walks into the office, interrupting my daydream.
“Hey Nathan, you ready yet?” he asks.
“Come on in, Kevin. I wanted Sally to sit and listen to you play for a little while. She’s just starting out; it’d be good for her to see what you can do,” Nathan answers. I stare at the kid in disbelief. This can’t be the ‘promising student’ that Nathan was referring to. He is the same age as my little sister, and his hair is styled in blue spikes, not cascading waves. Bring it on, I say to myself. He can’t be any better than I am.
[sally5] “So I’ve been working on this Van Halen solo, and it’s coming along pretty well,” Kevin says to Nathan as he tunes his red, glittering electric guitar. They make small talk and exchange inside jokes and hearty laughter. I have never heard Nathan even chuckle. Apparently, working with me is not the least bit entertaining. I am offended.
The young prodigy begins to play an intricate song, his hands skipping across the frets with ease. He unconsciously puckers his lips as he emphasizes the high notes screaming through the amplifier. He’s like a small, white Santana.
“Slow down, you’re rushing through it,” Nathan laughs. “There’s no hurry, just enjoy the music.” At this point I have had enough. I can’t even switch chords quickly enough to eliminate pauses, but this kid can switch so efficiently that he is actually playing too fast. I decide I hate him and will not allow him to crush my ego with another note.
“It was nice meeting you, Kevin, but I have to get going. See you next week, Nathan,” I say, zipping up my coat.
“If you have time, be sure to take a look at that sheet music I gave you, in addition to the blues exercises,” Nathan reminds me. “Particularly the one with the theme song to ‘The Flintstones.’” Thanks a lot, Nathan. I shrink inside my jacket as Kevin snickers at me under his breath.
I trudge up the creaking wooden stairs back to the main floor of Quinn’s, the sounds of Kevin’s pretentious guitar symphony ringing in my ears. Muttering a hurried goodbye to Brian, I step out into the crisp October air, leaving Nathan’s deadpan voice and the Progressive Guitar exercises behind me. Then I smile. My favorite part of the lesson is not yet over. My car is a full city block away, the streets are crowded and my Washburn acoustic is by my side.

Front page artwork by D. Shalom Pennington

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The Downlow on Downloading (by Beth Skubisz)

Generation X is an age group exposed to hi-tech innovations like the flip phone, the Internet, peel stamps, and the availability of free music downloads. Shawn Fanning, a revolutionary and technologically-minded young person, changed the music industry forever with the idea of swapping music files via a computer’s central server. The creation of “Napster” united music lovers across America. As new file-sharing companies like Kazaa and Limewire emerged, the men and women controlling the music industry grew increasingly dissatisifed. College campuses in particular are constantly under attack for downloading illegal and free music. Universities are attractive marketplaces to record companies because of thousands of potential consumers– but the campus Internet connections are among the fastest in the nation, making music downloads seem easier than a trek to the record store to drop upwards of $20 for a cd.
Companies such as the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) are known for suing schools, individuals, and web sites for illegal file sharing. Only weeks ago, the RIAA sued 68 individuals at large universities such as Havard University Medical School, Texas A & M, and students right here at Michigan State University.
Last week’s accusation was not the first for a Michigan State student to be included in a civil suit against the RIAA. While the crime is titled “file-sharing,” the term is not actually considered a criminal act by many. Many avid and knowledgeable computer users believe that file sharing is a legitimate action: the line of legal and illegal file sharing is unclear in the minds of many computer users. It technically becomes illegal when users upload songs from CDs and DVDs onto a computer, then compress the songs into MP3s. But the tricky part is that the majority of MP3 music files on the Internet are legal. An MP3 can turn a four minute, 40-megabyte song into a tune that takes up one-tenth of the memory space.
The legal MP3s are pieces of music generally used by local, up-and-coming bands. They make their music available on web sites as a tactic to gain exposure with a wider audience.
There are many myths about “getting around” the boundary lines of file sharing. In the past, users would use the idea that if a file did not have a copyright notice, then the file was not copyrighted. However, the Berne copyright accepted worldwide says users are legally unable to assume files are not copyrighted. Although it may be difficult news to swallow, but the easiest and safest way to avoid being sued by a record corporation or your favorite artist is simply to avoid file sharing altogether.

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The Lonely Jew

Christmas: a time of togetherness, unity and generosity. A time when all of the resentment and mishaps of the year seem to melt away, and peace and good tidings squeeze the hearts of people everywhere. Christmas is the season where a soft blanket of snow covers all the land, and children sit around the fragrant pine in their living room while reciting angelic songs and writing letters to jolly old St. Nick.
But what do Jewish children do?
They sit at home with their parents. They call up their friends, knowing that no one will answer the phone. They go to Chinese restaurants. They cry bitterly into their yarmulkes.
Such is the plight of American Jews on Christmas. We are marginalized from society, all but excluded from holiday cheer. The debate has continued for ages: can the eight tiny lights of an antique menorah compare to a gloriously illuminated Christmas spruce? Some Jews answer a resounding ‘yes!’ but others spend the Yuletide season annoyed at the burden of being God’s “Chosen People,” while the goyim swim in a magnificent fountain of eggnog.
“It’s not fair,” said Noni Kofman-Razi, a Spanish literature graduate student. On Christmas, Noni describes herself as “cold and frozen, alone with [her] dreidel.”
Unfortunately, her story is all too common. When some Jewish individual invented the spinning top known as the dreidel two thousand years ago, they thought that this clever little toy would suffice to keep Jewish kids entertained throughout the holiday season. Meanwhile, Christian masterminds coined the idea of Santa Claus, holiday elves, and red-nosed reindeer, opening up a commercial haven for Christmas dolls, books, clothing and accessories.
The Jews could not keep up with this phenomenon and were left disoriented and curled up in the fetal position in the corner of their bedrooms, clutching small wooden dreidels and muttering phrases in Hebrew.
This Hell does not just last for one day on the 25th of December, however. It starts nearly a month earlier, when stores across the United States purchase their favorite compilations of Christmas elevator music, blast them through the company loudspeakers, and press repeat as soon as the album is finished.
“The songs start in, like, April,” said Ron Berkovitz, an information and telecommunication management graduate student. “It’s horrible. I hate listening to the radio [over the holidays]. It pisses me off.”
Kofman-Razi is also confused and annoyed by the music that further reminds her of her status as an outsider in Christmas culture. Originally from Argentina, but also a former resident of Israel, she had never before experienced the Christmas consumerism so prevalent until she moved here five years ago.
“The one about Rudolph—it kills me,” she said.
But beneath the surface, Noni and Ron are not really seething about the misfortune of being Jews on Christmas. Noni just wants non-Jews to take the time to truly appreciate the December holidays other than Christmas. She explained that Hanukkah, with its potato pancakes and eight nights of presents, is just as culturally rich as Christmas.
“It’s fun,” she said. “It’s not like we just copy Christmas. When you find Hanukkah, it’s special.” Noni thinks that Christians could benefit from talking to Jews about Hanukkah and learning about the history of the holiday, which includes an exciting story about a military victory by peasant Jews over the Assyrians who tried to destroy their temple. Or, Noni said, “[non-Jews] can just offer to join in the games with the dreidels.”
Ron holds a slight admiration for the creativity of Christian holiday symbols.
“They have rabbits that lay eggs and old men that ride reindeer,” he said. “We don’t have anything like that.”
Not all Jews sit in judgment of Christmas and its honey-baked hams and gaudy tree ornaments. Some just want an end to the exclusion of Jewish tradition in December and the beginning of a holiday balance between the Christian mainstream and the Jewish minority.
So this Christmas, go out and hug a Jew. Tell them Happy Hanukkah. Hang out with them after you return from your grandma’s holiday dinner, and ask them if you can start a competitive dreidel-spinning tournament.
But whatever you do, remember not to hum “Silent Night,” and don’t attempt to put a little angel on top of their menorah. Chances are, someone else has already tried that.

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Around the World In 30 Years

After sleeping on park benches in Paris, joining a punk rock band in Japan, riding over a land mine in Cambodia and drinking Vodka with a member of the Russian mafia on the Siberian trail, some might say Glenn Mathes has seen it all.
With the international experience of over 30 countries under his belt and enough stories to make even homebodies feel inspired to jump on a plane, the 32-year-old language instructor said the best way to understand and appreciate other cultures is by experiencing them in person.
“There’s no substitute for actually being out there and seeing the world,” he said. “You realize there’s so much out there you wouldn’t be able to see just sitting in front of a television.”
Dedicating his time and career to helping non-English speaking people learn the language, the President and CEO of his self-owned company called FLACK (Furthering Language and Cultural Knowledge), Inc., an English learning program that provides language services across Michigan and the world, said he has used teaching English as a reason to travel and expand his cultural knowledge.
Mathes, who taught himself to read and write as a child by practicing from a bag of Better Made Potato Chips, said he always knew he wanted to be a teacher. After being asked in kindergarten to help a classmate from Iran learn English, he said, “I didn’t realize until later that that’s where it all began.”
Along with his initial fascination in teaching, Mathes received an early taste of culture growing up in Hamtramck, a diverse, inner-city area located near Detroit. Encountering a great deal of violence throughout his childhood, Mathes described having toys stolen from his garage, being thrown off his bike and also being held up at gunpoint on more than one occasion. He said, “I wasn’t in the most dangerous neighborhood, but it wasn’t safe.”
As a result of being exposed to such a hostile environment growing up, Mathes said he tends to be rather distant and standoffish when he first meets people. Even after moving to the suburbs, he said he would wait for people to prove they weren’t there to harm him.
“It’s like people who live in the ghetto have to act bad,” he said. “I’d portray this image of being tough. Luckily, because I didn’t live in that environment my entire life, I was able to balance it out.”
Special Programs Coordinator of Michigan State University’s English Language Center Andrew McCullough was an English as a Second Language professor when he met Mathes in 1997, and the two quickly formed a friendship. McCullough, who was substituting for a class while Mathes was observing as an undergraduate, described Mathes’ seemingly rough personality.
“He grew up in a rough neighborhood, so he already had a toughness about him,” McCullough said. “It really personifies who he is in life. He’s not afraid of anything; he’s just ready to go.”
Although Mathes said he didn’t have much money growing up, he could still remember his family managing to take a vacation at least once a year. Escaping to places such as Niagara Falls, Mackinac Island and even Lansing, his love for travel was sparked at a young age.
In college, Mathes studied abroad throughout Europe, but an opportunity to teach English in Japan further inspired him to immerse himself in a foreign culture. Despite having taken only two semesters of Japanese language before leaving the United States and not knowing where he would be living once he arrived in Japan, Mathes said he wasn’t afraid.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” he said. “I literally woke up one day and thought, ‘I’m going to Japan.’ I just focused on that and knew it would be fine.”
Because of his exuberant personality and energetic nature, Mathes had no problem making friends and adapting to Asian culture. During his three-year stay in Japan, Mathes played in a band called Strawberry Mud Pie with his new Japanese friends and another group called Dick and the Pussycats that played at wedding receptions. He also met a Japanese woman named Ryoko, who is now his wife and a counselor at Baker College in Owosso.
Mathes spent three years teaching in Utsunomiya in the prefecture of Tochigi where he taught English to Japanese students ranging from middle school to high school ages. After having returned from the United States in 1999, Mathes joined forces once again with McCullough in 2001 when the ESL director recommended Mathes to teach English through PAL (Progressive Accelerated Language), a grant-based ESL program being run at Lansing Community College that offered language services to non-English speaking people including immigrants and refugees.
McCullough said Mathes was the perfect choice for the position because of the energy and unique teaching skills he provided. He said, “People need training beyond the university setting, and that’s the kind of material he had experience with.”
While McCullough said Mathes essentially directed PAL, the program lost grant funding and ended in 2003. Developing FLACK, Inc., Mathes now offers his services through a website that links potential students to language classes for non-English speaking children and adults, textbooks and other language materials, and also tutor sessions. Mathes said he thinks learning should come from opening up to new ideas and beliefs rather than a strict set of laws.
“Education shouldn’t be about just being there to play by the rules,” he said. “It’s about people sharing ideas and learning from each other. It’s not important if somebody’s wearing a Mohawk or holes in their jeans.”
While Mathes’ company has operated with representatives working in Lansing, Tokyo and Chicago, attorney prosecutor for the city of Chicago and FLACK, Inc.’s Chicago representative Yancey Pinkston said he admired Mathes’ personality and dedication to education. Pinkston also taught in Japan and met Mathes during their orientation process. Like McCullough, Pinkston said he quickly formed a bond with Mathes.
“He’s got one of those personalities that makes you just want to get to know the guy,” Pinkston said. “Once you get to talking to him, his overall aura is one that just kind of draws you in. Even if you don’t want to buy his product, he’s a guy you’d want to sit and talk to for hours.”
Despite teaching abroad and finding every opportunity he could to travel throughout the years, Mathes said it was ironic that he returned to Michigan for work. However, he said he now considers his current work to be more worthwhile.
“I always thought ESL was a mechanism to travel,” he said. “Interestingly enough, I ended up back in Michigan. Working with a population of people in the United States who are trying to make lives for themselves here-that’s more rewarding-to do more for people and more for your own country than going abroad and teaching English to people who just want to learn it as a hobby.”
Although the travel veteran said he appreciates the experiences he has had, Mathes now finds comfort in staying still. He believes people should be able to plant their feet firmly in one place rather than constantly being on the go.
“People should have nice mobility and a nomadic attitude while still being able to find stability,” he said. “It’s important to find a balance between the two. If all you do is wander from place to place, there’s no sense of accomplishment except for saying, yeah, you’ve gone to a lot of places.”
Despite the influence traveling abroad has had on his friend, McCullough said Mathes was always the same energetic, open person.
“His experiences have helped color him,” McCullough said, “but when it comes down to it, he’s still the same Glenn Mathes that he’s always been.”
After decades of travel experience, hundreds of tales to tell and a company that continues furthering his goal of helping people become more culturally aware, Mathes said he is comfortable with the direction his life is headed, but uncertain of what the future holds.
“If people told me at 18 that I was going to marry a Japanese woman or go on the Siberian trail, I’d say, ‘You’re nuts!’” he said. “Right now it’s hard for me to say what will happen in the future. Everybody has to be ready for change.”

*For more information about Mathes’ company, FLACK, Inc., visit www.flackinc.com.

*If you are interested in teaching English abroad, you can find more information at sites including www.teflcorp.com and www.crossculturalsolutions.org.

Caption Info
(Photo 1-Mathes-Niagara Falls) Nine-year-old Mathes poses with his sister Nicole in 1981 during a family vacation to Niagara Falls. (photo courtesy of Glenn Mathes)

(Photo 2-Mathes-Classroom) Mathes gathers with students in Utsunomiya during his second year of teaching in Japan. (photo courtesy of Glenn Mathes)

(Photo 3-Mathes-Wedding Singer) While his Japanese friends (from left to right) Sensei and Ken sing along, Mathes performs at a wedding in Japan. (photo courtesy of Glenn Mathes)

(Photo 4-Mathes and Wife) Mathes met his wife Ryoko in Japan days before he was scheduled to leave before the two fell in love and married in the United States years later. (Caitlin Dobson)

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When Worries Grow Out of Hand

Chris’s fingernails are worn down so low from his nail-biting habit that his cuticles sometimes bleed from being chewed raw. The telecommunications senior bites his nails whenever he studies or contemplates life after his December graduation. He bites to get rid of the ragged skin around the ends of his fingers, he bites as a stress reliever.
Like 19 million other Americans, Chris suffers from an anxiety disorder. Psychologists at the MSU Counseling Center started a group-therapy program nearly three years ago to address the growing need to help students on campus struggling to manage anxiety.
[disorder] Dr. David Novicki, a professor, counselor, and specialist in the treatment of anxiety disorders at the Counseling Center, has noticed a significant increase in the number of MSU students seeking help for stress and anxiety over the past two years. During this time, he estimates that the number of students at MSU with this type of disorder has grown by 20 percent. Over the last decade, he said that it has risen by about 50 percent.
Eventually, the pain of his shorn fingernails forced Chris to seek psychological help for the negative thoughts weighing down his life. He described this habit as the physical manifestation of his worries about romantic relationships and pressure from responsibilities with the demanding clients at his job as a web developer.
Novicki said that he feels the general population of the United States is more anxious since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, spurring a jump in the number of people suffering from anxiety-related mental illnesses.
“Our culture is changing,” he explained. “Most everything that [our government] has done in the past few years is anxiety-causing. The stress level in our country has increased dramatically.”
Our country also places less influence on communication than it used to, noted Novicki. With the popularity of computer chatting, the huge amounts of daily email being exchanged in cyberspace, and a reliance on cell phones, he believes that Americans have less face-to-face human interaction than they did before the advent of technology.
“The internet isolates people,” said Novicki. “They talk with a keyboard instead of a person.” This, in turn, raises an individual’s level of loneliness, and that causes feelings of depression and anxiety.
No one knows this better than Joe, an English senior at MSU. A self-described “addict” of internet gaming, Joe’s new hobby is playing World of Warcraft, a role-playing fantasy game in which players journey through an epic alternative universe battling evil forces.
“It’s a very social game,” he explained, emphasizing that he has numerous online buddies around the country who play World of Warcraft as much as he does. “But it keeps me in my room. It isolates me from the people that live around me.”
Joe began group therapy when he transferred to MSU one year ago to help combat the social anxiety that was separating him from his peers. Although he lives in an on-campus dorm, he only socializes with few students on his floor. Weekends are often spent deeply involved in World of Warcraft, and after days have passed, Joe will realize that “suddenly, [he] can’t find people to do stuff with.” But he is working to improve his quality of life.
“The most important thing I’ve learned is that it’s up to me how much I want to change,” he said.
Joe explained that Dr. Novicki’s group has taught him how to feel more positive and productive by making small changes in his thinking, like replacing the word “should” with “want.” He doesn’t tell himself that he should go out and make friends: he reminds himself that he wants to make friends because that will help him to be happier. This small adjustment, he said, reduces a lot of unnecessary worry, guilt, and anxiety-producing thoughts.
Dr. Novicki also identifies the burden placed on young people to successfully transition from an adolescent to an adult as a trigger causing anxiety disorders in people at the college level.
“People are concerned with the way they’re ‘supposed’ to be,” said Novicki. “It’s an overload of the system. The anxiety becomes a real burden, until it affects the quality of life.”
A student’s general happiness can decrease dramatically if they feel overwhelmed by the pressure to achieve independence from their parents, attain high academic scores, maintain romantic relationships, and cultivate lifelong friendships.
When he was in high school, Chris fit the profile of someone whose quality of life dropped due to anxiety. He constantly worried about his grades and the pressure of being an honor student. He remembers not being able to focus when reading entire pages from his textbook. He was even concerned that he might have Attention Deficit Disorder.
“Something was wrong,” he remembered. “I had anxiety then, but I didn’t know it.”
Chris sought assistance from Michigan State University’s Counseling Center at the end of September, in hopes of finally overcoming his anxiety.
For the millions of sufferers across America, and the growing number of distressed students at MSU, Dr. Novicki wants to emphasize the fact that anxiety disorders are “incredibly treatable.”
Both Joe and Chris felt that they have received adequate help from the MSU Counseling Center in their struggle to cope with their anxiety disorders. They agreed that Dr. Novicki’s system of group therapy is helpful, because it allows them to talk with other students facing similar problems.
“You feel like you’re not alone,” said Chris, who now implements the group’s simple relaxation exercises whenever he feels anxious or stressed.
Joe prefers the group setting to individual counseling because he really likes getting feedback from the other students, with the assistance of a moderator trained in dealing with the subject matter.
“It’s like a safe place where people can say whatever they want,” he said.
The results are not immediate, though. Chris began noticing an improvement in his mood and general outlook on life after four of the weekly two-hour sessions. Novicki reported that students usually attend between eight and twenty sessions, depending on the severity of their disorder. But there is no limit on the number of times one can attend, as there is with one-on-one therapy; at MSU, students can individually see a counselor for eight hours per year at no cost.
“It’s liberating when you admit that you have issues,” Chris added. “You’ll be able to focus on the important things in life, as opposed to worrying about a bunch of [stuff] that’s probably not going to happen.”

For more information on how to treat and overcome issues with anxiety, contact the MSU Counseling Center at (517) 355-8270. The offices are located at 207 Student Services Building.

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God: Bigger Than Words (by Megan Connor)

I asked them a single question.
“How have you experienced God?”
Many students did not feel comfortable answering, while others elaborated on the exact moment when God became real to them. Despite differences in belief, sect, and even overall religion, one by one, students explained how they view “higher powers.”
In the middle of the expected self-discovery occurring during the college years, many students on campus question their spirituality, and begin to create their own definitions and perceptions of God, in order to come to terms with the concept of faith.
[cross01] Elise Wagner, a history graduate student, is a practicing Christian Scientist who, unlike many others, unabashedly spoke about experiencing God.
“My father is a news photographer,” she began. “He was recently in a plane, taking pictures of Mt. Saint Helens erupting. The plane got too close, and ash was sucked into the plane’s carbonator. The plane stalled and dropped thousands of feet. My father and the pilot could do nothing humanly, but they could know Truth, and they did,” she continued. Just before it needed to land, the plane resumed, and everyone went home safely that evening. Some would say it was just a coincidence, but so many personal experiences lead me to believe it was God.”
The believers did not end with Elise. Robert Feisel, MSU alumnus, was raised Catholic but no longer belongs to a particular religious organization.
“I see God as being everything and everywhere, which implies that you and I are not only reflections but actually a part of God,” Feisel said. [symbols]
Like Feisel, Yasmin Osati has also strayed from the strict beliefs of her religion. The pre-med sophomore and Muslim clarified that although she doesn’t “look down on organized religion,” she feels that it just does not reach her on a personal level.
“Muslims are supposed to pray five times a day in Arabic,” she explained. “For a year, I did this, even though I do not know Arabic. It didn’t connect with me, so I began to pray in my own way.
“I see God as a very personal thing. I am more spiritual than religious. I ask God for help, and I am helped. As human beings we have a need to think of a higher power,” she said.
Osati also said she believes in God partly because of a near-tragedy that occurred within her family.
“My dad had a heart attack last year and almost died,” she said. “He pulled through, and it now perfectly fine. This is a miracle. In situations where everything can fall apart, but it ends up okay—that is a higher power. There are certain things that you just can’t explain,” she said.
Since church and state are supposed to be separate in our democracy, many people affiliate God with something personal, not something sanctioned or required. Though the answers from MSU’s students varied in length and content, not a single person felt their words described the presence of God just right.
“A relationship with God transcends human explanation,” Wagner said. “It’s a relationship more pure and true than with even the closest of friends or family.”

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