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International students weigh in on the invasion of Crimea

International students weigh in on the invasion of Crimea

From the anti-government protests in Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine, to the Russian invasion of the Ukrainian territory Crimea, Eastern Europe appears to be in an uproar.

According to Eastern European students abroad in the United States, however, the threat of war between Russia and Ukraine is either extremely unwanted or unlikely.

“The biggest concern I have is that we are very close nations, we are very close ethnically,” said a native Russian Ph.D. student at Michigan State University, who requested to have her name withheld. If the current conflict between Russia and the Ukraine escalates, it could turn brothers against one another.

Alex Karpenko, a native Ukrainian and also a Ph.D. student at MSU, believes if the Russians attempt to seize Ukrainian land beyond Crimea, a full-scale war could erupt.

“I think there are not many people in the Ukraine that really want this war to start,” Karpenko said. “It would be a bad idea, and I’m totally against it.”

Echoing the language of his Russian peer, Karpenko said a war would turn friends and family against one another. He has loved ones in Russia and the Ukraine: Karpenko said he has nearly 20 friends living in Moscow.

The native Russian Ph.D. student said her great-grandparents migrated from the Ukraine to Russia. They moved to Siberia, a northern region in Russia, to help the Ukrainian government manage overpopulation. Her family has since lived in Siberia for generations.

Karpenko said she does not expect a war to break out, because Russia does not have the money to fund the operation. Taking over Ukraine would also require Russia to fund Ukraine’s impoverished areas with money it cannot spare at this time.

Russia and Ukraine are culturally and ethnically interwoven because both lands were once a part of the Soviet Union. However, 85 percent of the population in Ukraine voted for independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union was falling apart, said Matthew Pauly, a professor and Eastern European history expert at MSU.

Pauly said Vladimir Putin, the current president of Russia, is not happy about Ukraine’s continued independence. According to Pauly, Putin has asserted the Ukrainian government is run by fascists, and the Russian president is on the record for calling the fall of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century”.

Though Karpenko is familiar with Putin’s sentiment, the Russian leader’s invasion of Crimea did not come to him as a shock. “I believe the plan existed for many years,” Karpenko said. According to Karpenko, Putin said he did not recognize Ukraine as an independent state in 2008.

A recent article from CNN said at the 2008 NATO summit, Putin told former U.S. President George W. Bush Ukraine was not a country, but land mostly belonging to Russia.

“Russia is concerned that Ukraine is drifting distinctly and fundamentally from the Russian sphere of influence,” Pauly said. This is part of the reason behind Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea.

Pauly said Crimea is a special case, because it is the only place in Ukraine with a Russian ethnic majority (roughly 58 percent). Part of this majority wants the land to be reunited with Russia, but essentially “ethnic Russians in other parts of Ukraine are willing to accept citizenship in Ukraine,” Pauly said.

Crimea also houses a number of Russian military bases, Pauly said. According to the native Russian at MSU, Ukraine originally permitted the bases in exchange for cheap gasoline from Russia.

According to Pauly, Russians living in their native country largely support the invasion of Crimea. However, polling data could be skewed by business and economic interests, misinformation from Russian media, and government restraint of unpopular opinions.

Pauly said when Russia stormed Crimea, all newsfeeds from Ukrainian protests in Kiev were cut off by the invaders.

The native Russian student said she knows firsthand how one-sided Russian media can be. “I don’t watch Russian television, because they do brainwash,” she said. “I think it’s really shady.”

When the U.S. news announced Russia annexed or invaded Crimea, the headlines in Russia announced: “Russia incorporates Crimea”, the Russian student said.

Crimea is a big resort destination for Russians, she said. “It was never perceived as something foreign.” Citizens of her hometown were excited to hear Crimea was “incorporated,” because it would be easier to travel there. Personally, she said she did not find the invasion to be very legal, and Russia is setting a bad example on an international scale.

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Top Memorable Moments of the Olympics—so far

Top Memorable Moments of the Olympics—so far

10. Opening Ceremonies

The Opening Ceremonies of Sochi 2014 were considered to be uneventful by many, especially when compared to the most recent Olympic games: Summer 2012 in London. What most Americans will remember about this year’s opening ceremonies are likely the “ugly sweater” outfits worn by US Olympians and a viral video of Russian police performing Daft Punk’s summer 2013 hit “Get Lucky.”

Photo via Know your meme

9. Ashley Wagner’s meme

Move over, Mikayla Maroney. You’ve got some meme competition.

Ashley Wagner came into the Olympics as the skater every American wanted to cheer for. Despite a devastating fall at Nationals, Wagner was still selected for the US Olympic team. Wagner performed a well-executed routine, but did not agree with the score she was given and a camera caught her making faces of disbelief and mouthing “bullsh***” to her US teammates. Naturally, the Internet exploded and the world was graced with a meme that rivals Maroney’s “Not Impressed” from the 2012 summer games in London.

8. Shaun White

White shocked the world not once, not twice, but three times. The “Flying Tomato” came into the games no longer sporting his signature long locks and withdrew from the slopestyle event, stating that the course was too dangerous. The American snowboarder also failed to medal in his strongest event, finishing fourth in halfpipe.

7. Bob Costas’ eye

NBC broadcaster Bob Costas had anchored 157 primetime Olympic telecasts coming into Sochi 2014. While in Sochi, Costas developed a mysterious eye infection. He had to wear glasses on air and visibly struggled to see. On Feb. 11, five days after NBC started primetime coverage, the infection became too severe for Costas to effectively carry out his responsibilities and NBC transferred broadcasting duties to Today Show anchor Matt Lauer. Meredith Viera also covered for Costas, becoming the first solo female anchor to host primetime Olympics coverage. Costas hopes to return in the second half of the games.

6. Jamaican Bobsled team

A bobsled team from the Caribbean qualifying for the Winter Games for the first time since 2002. Need we say more?

5 (tie). Falls: Shiva Keshavan, luge & Jeremy Abbot, figure skating

Keshavan: Five-time Olympian Shiva Keshavan had a scary fall off of his sled during a luge training run but managed to gain control and finish. Keshavan, who hails from India but is performing under the Olympic flag due to India’s IOC sanctioned suspension, came into Sochi internet-famous from his videos of intense training on a Himalyan highway.

Abbott: American figure skater Jeremy Abbott crashed into a wall following a spin during his routine in men’s short program team figure skating. Abbott, a member of the Detroit Skating Club who trains in West Bloomfield, Mich., managed to push through and finish his routine with a score of 72.58

4. US Men Sweep Slopestyle and ask for a date

American skiers Josh Christenson, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper won gold, silver and bronze, respectively, in the event. And in the spirit of the holiday, Goepper is holding an online contest to go on a date with him using the hashtag #iwanttodatenick

3. TJ Oshie shootout Goal vs. Russia

The St. Louis Blues center scored the winning goal for Team USA after going head-to-head with Russian captain and Detroit Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk for the majority of eight shootout rounds to lead America to a 3-2 victory over the host country.

2. Julia Lipnitskaia, 15-year-old Russian figure skater

It may be too early to call, but chances are high that Lipnitskaia becomes the breakout athlete of Sochi 2014. Her performance in team figure skating earned Russia the gold and ever since then she has since taken the world by storm with her unbelievable twists and spins.

1. #SochiProblems

Tap water the color of beer, doors that won’t unlock and a climate better suited for spring break than the Olympics are just many problems that sports journalists and athletes alike have experienced during their stay in Sochi. The hashtag “Sochi Problems” has taken the Twitter world by storm with many wondering what makes the Russian vacation city a viable location for the Olympic Games.

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Picking up a bus pass could help global warming

Picking up a bus pass could help global warming

Do you hope that the earth will continue to be a livable planet in the future? Are you supportive of possible solutions to reduce human-induced climate change? Would you be willing to set down your keys and pick up a bus pass?

Did you hesitate after the previous question?

Public transportation can effectively reverse a portion of the unprecedented rate of increase in global warming in recent years, given that emissions from automobiles are one main human culprit.

Dr. Rachael Shwom, a specialist in climate and society at Rutgers University, included transportation in the top three contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, along with household energy use and the food system.

She said that scientific consensus on climate change has been growing, and while there have been some natural variations in the global temperature across decades, “we certainly know that the increases in global temperatures are tied to anthropogenic – or human – sources of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Virginia Miller, the senior manager of media relations at the American Public Transportation Association, quoted a report on traffic congestion, which stated that if there hadn’t been public transportation services in the 498 urban areas they studied in the U.S. in 2011, people would have consumed 450 million more gallons of fuel.

She also cited that “if an individual has a 20-mile round trip commute and decides to take public transit instead of driving a car, then his or her carbon emissions will decrease by 4,800 pounds per year.”

“So see? People can make a difference,” she said.  “Individual decisions are important.”

However, many people do hesitate to hang their keys on the hook and instead invest in a bus pass or another form of public transportation.

Shwom said that studies conducted on the public’s belief about climate change revealed that approximately 10 percent of people embrace true denial of climate change and claim it is a myth, while a much broader portion of the United States is simply uncertain or confused about climate change.

At MSU, the vast majority of students is aware of and believes the hype surrounding anthropogenic climate change.  Out of a random sample of five students, all five said they believe in human-caused global warming, and all five said that they feel public transportation could have a significant impact in reducing carbon emissions.

However, only two students reported that they frequently use the public transportation options on campus, while the remaining three almost immediately said that they would not be willing to give up their cars to rely solely on public transportation.

“Not in its current state,” said grad student Emmalilly Hoxsie.  “Definitely if it was more reliable.”

Ryan Kneisel echoed Hoxsie’s thoughts.

He said “public transportation does not go everywhere and is not always reliable.”

For MSU student Kelsey Patten, however, it is more so a question of convenience.  “Having a car is just easier; if you have a certain time to be somewhere you don’t have to wait.  You can be on your own time,” she said.

But Miller said that once people simply start taking public transportation – typically in response to high gas prices initially – they realize that there are other benefits as well.

“When you’re not driving, you can sit back and relax – you can listen to your music, you can text your friends, you can work on your laptop, read a book, or even go to sleep.  You can just relax,” she said.

Furthermore, Miller said, “One thing we say to people is even if you’re not going to take public transit, you should want your community to invest in it.  It’s going to help congestion, and it’s going to help the growth and vitality of your community.”

And considering that “tens of millions” of people currently use public transportation according to Miller, the industry is having quite a significant impact on lessening the emissions entering the atmosphere.

“One thing for sure is: public transportation is leading the way when it comes to having environmentally friendly vehicles,” said Miller.  The industry is also committed to reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oils. She mentioned several of their options, from diesel-electric hybrids to a completely electric “zero emissions heavy duty bus,” which charges at a docking station in the middle of its route in less than 10 minutes.

In 2012, there were 10.5 billion boardings for trips on public transportation, Miller said – the highest number since 1957.  Shwom indicated that the one real barrier to further increasing this number is that “only so many people have access to decent, well-run, on-time public transportation.”

Shwom said that it is important to keep encouraging participation in public transportation before the impacts of emissions – such as increased storm intensity, changes in precipitation patterns, droughts, and long-term sea level rise – become much more urgent and begin to impact people’s quality of life.

“In this century, there’s been kind of a renaissance of public transportation, and a realization that we need livable, walkable, sustainable communities,” Miller said.  “And a key part of serving a livable community is having public transportation as a travel option.”

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Action on abortion legislation heats up in Michigan

Action on abortion legislation heats up in Michigan

Elaina Clark, Michigan State University sophomore human biology student, said that women should not have to be convinced or manipulated into making a decision that could put an innocent child at risk for growing up under poor circumstances.

Ohio recently received national attention as it joined eight other states, including Michigan, that require women to be given the opportunity to view the ultrasound of their conceived child prior to abortion.

“[This law] makes it seem like they’re trying to make women feel guilty for what they are doing,” Clark said. “It’s already a hard enough situation as it is.”

Earlier this year Michigan House Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare, presented a bill to the Michigan House of Representatives that would intensify the statewide ultrasound viewing law. Michigan also recently approved a bill that prohibits insurers from paying for abortions unless the woman has already purchased coverage through a separate insurance rider.

Genevieve Marnon, Public Affairs Associate at Right to Life of Michigan, said that this bill would take the Ohio law a step further.

“We currently require the abortion clinic to offer a woman the option to view an ultrasound image prior to an abortion, if the clinic uses ultrasounds, but we do not mandate that an ultrasound be performed or that the clinic maintain a copy in the patient file,” Marnon said. “HB 4187… would mandate that an ultrasound be preformed, [which] Ohio does not make this requirement.”

Long-time activist for women’s reproductive rights, Dr. Penny Gardner, associate professor for Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures at MSU, said that she finds the idea of requiring a woman to have an ultrasound done as part of abortion procedure is a defamation of women’s rights.

“It’s terribly destructive,” Gardner said. “It’s something put up to dissuade a woman of a decision that she has made, [and] it is her right and her choice no matter what way she has come to that decision.”

MSU sophomore social relations and policy student Kathryn Maass said that although she considers herself to be pro-life, she thinks it is unfair that male political figures are making the decisions, regarding abortion legislation, on the behalf of women.

“They will never understand the situation or the stress that a woman is put under,” Maass said. “Women’s rights should ultimately be made by a woman.”

Dr. Jayne Schuiteman, interim director of the Women’s Resource Center and associate professor in the Center for Gender in Global Context at MSU, said that anti-abortion legislation, like the one passed in Ohio, could have detrimental effects on the efforts that have been taken during the past decades in the revolution of a woman’s right of choice.

“I think each effort is a chip away at women’s reproductive rights,” said Schuiteman. “I think the ultimate [goal] with anti-choice people is to eliminate abortion altogether and each step is just a chip away at that general overall goal.”

Stressing the importance of having mandated ultrasounds on women in Michigan, especially for college-aged adults, Marnon said many women don’t realize that they are carrying a living being inside of their body.

“Many young people have been told that it is just a clump of cells or it isn’t really a person,” Marnon said. “Having the image of a tiny human in front of your eyes will dispel that illusion and hopefully lead more young women to choose life.”

As a woman who has devoted a large majority of her life to traveling the United States to spread the ideals of reproductive freedom, Gardner said how each piece of intrusive legislation affects her personally.

“If you don’t want to have an abortion don’t have one, if you don’t want to buy birth control don’t buy it,” Gardner said. “But I don’t see why those of us that make those decisions need to be penalized by insurance companies, by the state, by access, by all kinds of barriers put in front of us where we should have a voice to choices that we are making, that are about our lives.”

While decisions on these abortion-related bills in Michigan could be drawn out all the way until election season in November of next year, only time will tell as to whether or not they will become enacted into state law.

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More students suffer because of tuition increases

More students suffer because of tuition increases

Michigan State University’s tuition increased by 1,650 percentage points in 34 years and will increase another 2.974 percentage points next year, according to the Office of Controller Student Account Website.

From 1979 until 2013, tuition at MSU went from $24.50 to $428.75 per credit hour, according to the Office of Controller Website. The Transparency Reporting stated that tuition will increase an additional $12.75 per credit hour for resident undergraduates, $40.50 for none resident undergraduates, and and approximate 4 percent increase out of the $428.75 – or $17.15 – for most other students for the 2014-2015 school year.

This additional increase will generate $839.2 million in total tuition revenue, according to the budget development overview in the reporting.

Students said this increase in tuition is hurting them now and will continue to hurt them consequentially and Assistant Director of the Budget Planning and Analysis Richard Geiersbach said MSU takes into consideration how the increase may affect its students.

“While tuition adjustments are required to preserve quality and to compensate for declining state appropriations support, MSU consistently seeks alternatives to adjustments first and pairs tuition with equal or greater increases in financial aid,” Geiersbach said over email, quoting the MSU Budget Information Website.

Geiersbach said over email that the Office of Budget Planning and Analysis would not be able to do an interview or provide any “qualitative or subjective responses.”

The numbers on the Student Account Website showed that the tuition increase is not something new and has been coming from a long time ago, according to MSU Economics Professor, Policy Expert and State and Local Public Finance Expert Charles Ballard.

“The causes are mainly political. The revenue is constrained and decisions had to be made on what to spend on. But school has lost so much!” Ballard said.

What has won out have been prisons, which Michigan spent about $2.8 billion last year, according to Ballard.

“Did we have to cut higher education funding out? No. It was the choice our political leaders made. They could’ve put an emphasis on education instead of other things,” Ballard said.

Because of the constant increase, MSU has made it a priority to try to increase its funds for financial aid, MSU Associate Director of Financial Aid Val Meyers said.

“If the cost of tuition continues to go up for whatever reason, we will continue to try to raise the financial aid that is given to students,” Meyers said.

According to Meyers, students can find the application for financial aid on their website and students will be asked to provide information such as student and family income, their plan to pay for college and more monetary information necessary to decide if a student is eligible of receiving the aid.

From the $839.2 million in total tuition revenue, MSU will increase the financial aid budget by 4 percent from this year, spending $4.6 million. Another $3 million will go toward Framework programs – $2 million for academic competitiveness initiatives ad $1 million for ongoing EBS operations.

Ballard said he had to take out loans while in college and finished paying them on his 30s.

Grace Rozanski, an elementary education sophomore, said she pays for college from money she has saved during her whole life, student loans and also by receiving financial aid.

“I have to pay for college by myself, so those were the only options for me besides getting a scholarship,” Rozanski said.

By working since she was 16, she said she has saved an amount of money between $18,000 to $20,000. All of that money goes toward college expenses.

To help with the expenses, Rozanski said she receives $2,300 of financial aid per semester, but it is not enough to keep her from getting loans. She takes out around $7,000 to $10,000 a semester, while her total tuition cost is a little over $6,000 per semester – but counting room and board, her college expenses totals over $12,000 a semester.

“Higher tuition means more debt and more years of being in debt. It’s all bad news,” she said.

Rozanski said she will pay off her loans “slowly and steadily” by working her career and hopefully a night job.

“I see myself in debt for the majority of my life,” she said.

Creative advertising sophomore Melody Stokosa does not pay for college herself. Even though her parents pay for it, she said she does not want them to have to pay more than they already do.

She said her college expenses totaled $11,308.25 this semester – tuition being $6,431.25 or 56.9 percent of the total value.

She said she does not see why the tuition increase is necessary, because students are “already breaking our banks to fund our education.”

“I think it’s unfair that we have to pay more to get a decent degree. Obviously the tuition increase is going to hurt my parents, and in turn me, because I have to help support myself,” Stokosa said.

Since she started attending college, Stokosa said money has gotten tighter around her house, and if tuition keeps going up she will still attend MSU but have more long-term consequences.

“I might have to take out a student loan, or even work more hours to help my parents pay for it,” Stokosa said.

Ballard said that students have suffered from the tuition increase and sometimes they do not even give themselves the opportunity to have a college experience and get a degree because of it.

He said there are many other factors that are part of the decision of not attending college, like family situations, personal thoughts on college and more, therefore it becomes hard to collect data only on tuition increase.

“There is no exact data on how many students drop out or do not attend college due to an increase in tuition, because of the other factors that go into the decision-making process, so it’s hard to separate and find the exact percentage that dropped out only due to tuition,” Ballard said.

He said he once told a student who was doing poorly that he knew the student could do well. Ballard asked “what happened?” and the student replied by saying his brother a $50,000 debt due to student loans, and that the student himself was working over 40 hours a week at a convenience store and would fall asleep in class.

“Students don’t know how good they are and won’t even try, because they don’t have money. They won’t have the education they could’ve had,” Ballard said.

“College educated earn more than not college educated people and even though the income gap has always been there, it has greatly increased,” he said.

According to Ballard, the state of Michigan has been trying to keep students in Michigan once they graduate and want people to also move here after they graduate in other states.

“The policies anti-education aren’t helping people who want to raise families in the future want to come here; it’s difficult,” Ballard said.

Donald Heller, Dean of the College of Education and tuition, costs and enrollment expert, said he predicts tuition will continue increasing in average or lower than average amounts.

Heller said that the search for methods to pay for college is crucial in the process of applying.

“A lot of it comes down to making wise and smart decisions on how to search and get the help a student needs to pay for college,” Heller said.

Heller said that the main focus of the Capital Campaign – a campaign to raise money for specific projects – is how to find money to support students.

“It is our number one priority and it will recognize students and parents that aren’t being able to afford [the cost of college],” Heller said.

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Global Events Breakdown: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Global Events Breakdown: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Since the 1940’s, the conflict between Israel and Palestine has been at the center of American international affairs. Each decade since the conflict’s start, leaders from around the world have come together to help the two sides negotiate a peace treaty. Regardless of the outside parties involved, the terms of negotiation or the willingness of Israel and Palestine to come together, so far each deal has failed.

As far as conflicts go, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most complex of our time.To help, here is the necessary information needed to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Following the end of World War II, the newly formed United Nations declared the need for an independent Jewish state where Holocaust refuges and other Jews could live. On May 14, 1948 Israel was established along the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. Immediately after, Jewish refugees started moving to Israel and by 1970 more than 1 million people had immigrated to the country.

Today, Israel has a population more than 8 million people, 80 percent Jews and 20 percent Arabic. Israel is recognized by the United Nations as a sovereign state which operates under a form of parliamentary democracy.


Palestine is a geographic region within Israel that is not recognized as a sovereign state by the United Nations. Palestine is comprised of the West Bank, located on the east side of Israel, and the Gaza Strip, located on the Mediterranean Sea.

Palestine declared itself an independent state in 1988 . In 2012 the United Nations granted it observer status meaning Palestinians can attend UN meetings but have no vote.

Origins of the Conflict

Violence between Jews and Muslims around modern-day Israel is not new. The two religions have been in conflict has since Jerusalem was founded thousands of years ago. However, the modern conflict quickly escalated as soon as Israel was founded in 1948.

The first war between Israel and Palestine was from 1947-1949 and resulted in Israel obtaining control of the majority of the region. Israel gained control of the rest of the region in 1967 leaving only the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in control of the Palestinians.

Following an uprising by Palestinians in 2000, the tension between Israel and Palestine escalated into a war like conflict with constant violence from both sides.


  • From 2000-2012 6,663 Palestinians and 1,097 Israelis were killed because of the conflict
  • Almost 50 percent of all Palestinians living in in the Gaza Strip or West Bank are refugees
  • The conflict has caused highly unsteady employment rates in Palestine: In 2000, the Palestinian unemployment rate reached 22 percent
  • Israel’s economy has also been damaged by the conflict: the country has had a lower credit rating and slower economic growth than many other Middle Eastern and Asian countries

Current negotiations 

These wars and their resulting land acquisitions are at the heart of the modern Israeli-Palestinian conflict: both believe they have a right to control the same land. This notion along with arguments concerning refugees, security and the inevitable hatred associated with years of fighting has made current negotiations all but impossible

Despite the overwhelming strength of Israel and Palestine’s disagreements, UN delegates and U.S. politicians have optimistically sent representatives into the region countless times in order to help Israel and Palestine reach an agreement to no avail.

Most recently in early November, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry went to Israel in hopes of brokering a peace deal between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. After a week of negotiations, arguments and threats, the deal once again fell through.

What’s Next?

Peace between Israel and Palestine may not be completely impossible. Even though peace negotiations have failed thus far, a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians favor the solution to creation of two independent states.

Because the foundation is there, peace could occur if the two sides simply come together and agree upon the specifics of a treaty like how to address refugees and where to set country borders. Without this discussion and compromise, the violence between Israel and Palestine will inevitably continue.

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Infographic: Gay Marriage in the United States

Infographic: Gay Marriage in the United States

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Global Events Breakdown: Syria

Global Events Breakdown: Syria

Unless you’ve avoided watching TV, listening to the radio, reading newspapers and the internet for the last few years you’ve have probably heard something about the Syrian Civil War. Because it has received so much attention, many of the causes, events and even basic facts of the conflict have been jumbled up making it hard for many to understand what is going on.


Photo credit: Freedom House.

To help with this confusion, here are all the things you need to know to understand the Syrian Civil War.

About Syria

Syria is located in the Middle East and is bordered by Lebanon, Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea. The largest cities in the country are Aleppo and Damascus, the capital.

The country’s population of about 22.5 million people is comprised mostly of Arabic- speaking Muslims. Before the conflict, the Syrian government was considered a republic under authoritarian regime. This means that the president, Bashar al-Assad, singularly held the power to make most of the decisions for the country.

Origins of the Conflict

The conflict started in the city of Daara during March 2011 in response to the poor economic conditions, the further restrictions of human rights and unjust practices by the Syrian government, such as torturing of civilians. Protestors called for the overthrow of al-Assad and the establishment of a democracy.

In response to the protests, the government dispatched the Syrian army to stop the uprisings in Daara through arresting the protestors. Instead of stopping the uprising, the government’s actions reinforced and help spread the protestors’ message throughout the country.

Protesting continued throughout March. In response, al-Assad ordered large-scale military attacks on cities with high concentrations of protestors in late April. These attacks resulted in the deaths of many civilians and escalated the conflict into a Civil War.

Key Players

The Syrian opposition has received support in the form of weapons and limited military support from countries both inside and outside of the Middle East. The support for the Syrian opposition in the Middle East comes from the predominately Sunni Muslim countries including Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. France, the United Kingdom and the United States have also given political support to opposition forces.

The main supporters of the Syrian government are Iran and Hezbollah, a Shia political and military group. These supporters have given the government troops, weapons and have aided in military training and tactics. Russia, the Syrian government’s main ally outside the Middle East, has provided political support and weapons to government troops.

Chemical Weapons

One of the most unclear and contested aspects of the Syrian Civil war is the use of chemical weapons. Both the Syrian government and the opposition forces have claimed that the other side has attacked civilians using chemical weapons.

The deadliest chemical gas attacks occurred from June to September 2013 during which hundreds of people were killed in western Syria. Though the Syrian government denies the attacks, the United States proclaimed that the government was responsible for the chemical attacks in August 2013.


As of August 2013, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has documented approximately 110,000 deaths since the start of the civil war. The Syrian Observatory also estimates that 4.25 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes.

More than two million people have fled Syria to countries including Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon with the hopes of finding safety. The UN estimates that nearly half of the evacuees from the war are children, most of which are younger than 11 years old.

More than 9,000 buildings have been destroyed since the start of the conflict. The public sector has also lost an estimated $15 billion because of lost or damaged infrastructure and manufacturing sites which drove the Syrian economy.

The Next Steps

After declaring the Syrian government responsible for the chemical gas attacks in August, President Obama announced that the United States would perform military air strikes on the country unless the Syrian government handed over their chemical weapons to the United Nations. At first, Syria continued to deny the attacks and the United States seemed ready to perform missile strikes, but Russia proposed a diplomatic solution involving the disarmament of Syria and the United States agreed.

The solution, which was backed by the United Nations, includes sending in a weapons task force to collect and destroy all of Syria’s 1000 tons of chemical weapons.  This taskforce arrived in Syria on Oct. 1 and are expected to have the stockpile destroyed and cleaned up by mid-2014.

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Imported From China

Imported From China

Transitioning to college with 48,000 new faces can be intimidating for anyone. But, just imagine moving among a brand new culture that you are unfamiliar with, while feeling the pressure to achieve good grades, become involved, and make new friends.

Imported panel

Photo credit: Stacy Landry

“Imported From China,” a new documentary directed by Michigan State University Journalism Associate Professor Geri Zeldes portrays challenges that international students face on campus.

According to Zeldes, as enrollment of international students is on the rise, the dynamics of the student body on campus is going to change. For this reason, Zeldes said it is important that everyone understands the impact this will have on his or her everyday interaction.

The documentary began after a filmmaker approached MSU a couple of years ago and wanted to create a film that analyzed the relationships between international and domestic students in a Chinese setting. For Zeldes, this sparked an idea for a new creative project that would capture the interaction between these distinguished groups of students right here on campus.

Zeldes said that with her Filipino-American background, she could identify with the many issues that Chinese students face, such as pressure from their parents and communication barriers.

The documentary follows two Chinese students through their daily lives as they share their thoughts and feelings about different challenges they face. The main problem that these students continued to encounter was becoming accustomed to the American culture and establishing long-lasting friendships with domestic students.

“What we had in mind was to show how this abrupt change in the demographics of MSU is having an impact on so many layers—person-to-person, in group communications, and even in classroom discussions,” Zeldes said.

The documentary was debuted on Sept. 16 in the Communication Arts and Sciences building. It was followed by a question and answer session where many domestic and international students voiced their opinions on the issue itself, as well as their ideas to help break down cultural barriers that exist among students.

Journalism freshmen Kelly Cullen said watching this film was an incredibly eye-opening experience.

Imported audience

Photo credit: Stacy Landry

“It made me realize how hard it is for international students to reach out to American students because they often feel intimidated,” Cullen said. “I think that everyone could gain a lot from getting to know someone outside of their culture and it would be great if more opportunities were available for this to happen.”

Peter Briggs, director of the International Students and Scholars office at Michigan State, said he shared a similar sentiment as Cullen.

“We need to have some kind of facilitated outreach to structure the relationships and the connectedness for these students,” said Peter Briggs, director of the International Students and Scholars Office.

A large part of Briggs’ job is pointing these international students in the right direction so that they can create friendships and become involved.

“We really need to figure out how to internationalize the campus so that Americans are welcoming to these new students,” Briggs said. “I want to build empathy; that’s what I want to see.”

But Briggs said this new sense of community couldn’t be successful unless everyone is committed to accepting and embracing the diverse student population. In order to make progress, the community needs to continue having this kind of conversation and discussing ways to break down these walls that divide the two groups of students.

“If intercultural relationships were easy, we would have a lot more of them,” Briggs said.

Imported Zeldes

Photo credit: Stacy Landry

But “Imported from China” has already created awareness, sparked conversation, and inspire students to go out of their comfort zones and try establishing friendships with people they normally wouldn’t associate themselves with.

Zeldes said the feedback has been tremendous.

Ever since the debut of the film, Zeldes said she has been busy answering inquiries from numerous professors on campus, as well as a dozen other universities who want a copy of the film to show their students. WILX TV also contacted her and is interested in showcasing parts of the film.

“We are trying to find the smartest way to get it out there,” Zeldes added.

As this film is further exposed and the message is spread to larger audiences, the transition to this new intercultural communication can begin, and relationships between international and domestic students will begin to thrive with effort and commitment on both ends.

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1:Face Watches: Hit or Miss?

1:Face Watches: Hit or Miss?

Charitable fashion has become pervasive in the last few years, but could the next big trend be something many students barely wear—a watch?

1:Face Watch, a relatively unknown phenomenon, allows people to help solve some of the world’s most difficult issues all by the color of a wristwatch. Profits from each watch support different charities based on their color.


Photo credit: 1:Face Watch.

According to their website, watches cost $40 and the consumer gets to choose which cause to support. Every watch has a square mirror-like display that shows the time when a button on the side is pressed.

The company hopes to one day grace the arms of millions of people just like Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong bracelets or enter in the charitable realm of Blake Mycoskie’s Toms. Unfortunately, 1:Face watch has not reached that level of popularity just yet.

The only ways to purchase a watch is through the official website or in participating Journey’s stores. There is no way a person could tell if this brand is genuine or not as not many of the charities seem to voice their support for it or publicize a partnership. In other words, there is no way a consumer can make sure that the watches are in authentic partnerships with these various charities – the money could be going anywhere.

Faraz ‘Fam’ Mirza, the man behind 1:Face, is trying to use a specific brand strategy to accommodate those who are less fortunate. According to his Twitter bio, Mirza is known for his idea branding, establishing trends and working with celebrities like P. Diddy.

Mirza hopes to successfully commercialize 1:Face Watch like the other projects he has worked on. Despite Mirza’s expertise, 1:Face has simply not grown to the caliber of his past brands.

Could poor brand reputation be the reason why this company not taken off? Bonnie Knutson, professor at the Eli Broad College of Business and expert on consumer trends, certainly thinks so.

“What guarantee do I have that the money I pay for the pink watch is going to breast cancer?” Knutson said. “I will give money to the Red Cross because they have a history. These folks don’t.”

Knutson also notes of the lack of direction when it comes to marketing the product. Truth of the matter is, not many kids actually wear watches and smartphones have taken over that industry, Knutson said.

Knutson also doesn’t think Journey’s is good place to sell watches, as the demographic that usually shops at the store doesn’t necessarily buy watches.

“Young pre-teens [and] teens, do they have 40 dollars to throw? Are they into charity?” Knutson said. “I don’t think so. So right away, that’s not making any sense to me.”

Despite all this, 1:Face Watch has managed to capture more than 3,000 followers on Twitter and over 100,000 on Instagram. The buzz could be big enough to generate the next Toms-like sensation.

Before this can happen Knutson suggested that they need to get their marketing game up. According to Knutson, the average person in the Lansing, Mich. area gets hit with about 6,000 ads a day.

“In Metropolitan areas like Chicago or New York it is at about 20 to 30,000,” Knutson said. “For you to get noticed, you’ve got to break through that clutter.”

Students seem to have dissenting opinions on the watch. Marketing major Elishia Johnson thinks the watches are cool but weird looking.

“I don’t know, the watch seems pretty one-dimensional and strange,” Johnson said. “I don’t really wear watches, and even if I did, I wouldn’t spend 40 dollars on one”

But public health major Shay Bradford thinks the watches are a great investment.

“The watches are weird looking but that’s what make them unique. I love how each one supports a different cause, what’s not to like?” Bradford said. “I wish more people knew about it.”

In the end, 1:Face Watch purchases will come down to personal preference. For those that are interested in a watch, however, 1:Face gives an opportunity to give back.

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