Tag Archive | "global view"

MSU student will spend summer in Rwanda ‘empowering’ women

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MSU student will spend summer in Rwanda ‘empowering’ women

Espoir Tuyisenge, nicknamed Esp (pronounced Es · pee), is a soft spoken, kind and intuitive 22-year-old from Rwanda who loves coffee. Esp came to the United States in 2013 to double major in food industry management and agriculture business management at Michigan State University. This summer, Esp will be in Rwanda conducting a project focusing on the production of coffee and its inclusion of women. 

Espoir Tuyisenge is a sophomore at Michigan State University. He is a double major in food industry management and agriculture business management.

Espoir Tuyisenge is a sophomore at Michigan State University. He is a double major in food industry management and agriculture business management. Photo: Ben Muir.

“Rwanda depends on agriculture as the main source of income,” Esp said.And coffee is the big industry that fuels the economy.”

Coffee in Rwanda differs from coffee in the United States, however. In the U.S., coffee is predominantly a consumption-based entity, and many drinkers have become alienated from the product. Whereas in Rwanda, coffee is a competitive business. Farmers in Rwanda produce the beans that will later be exported to other countries for sale. But the actual drink is not popular among the people, Esp said.

“I’m pretty sure 90 percent of people back in Rwanda don’t even drink coffee. It’s because Rwanda doesn’t process the coffee itself, but rather it produces green beans. Then the beans are sent to American outlets like Starbucks to produce the finest coffee,” Esp said. “And people in Rwanda can’t afford it. They just sell their beans.”

Women in Rwanda are at the forefront of coffee farming. Esp said women do the majority of the work involved with producing the beans, but when it comes to finances, men are the sole proprietors of coffee revenue.

Esp said the mixture of Rwanda’s culture and lack of education and organization in women has formed a negative mantra, creating a significant gender inequality within the nation. Subsequently conditioning women to believe that they are second to men in business enterprises.

This has made women unaware of the international coffee market size, Esp said. It is massive capitalism with billions of dollars allocated to people all over the world, and many Rwandan women pay little attention to what’s happening outside of Rwanda’s borders because they are accustomed to acting selfless.

Most of them are in rural areas, so if we don’t talk to them, they will have no idea what’s going on, Esp said. “All they do is farm and feed their children.”

Esp will be on a team that will work with 5,000 Rwandan women. The team will begin by interviewing women one-on-one to gauge their thought process on why many are negated.

Along with his studies, Esp works part-time at the MSU Union.

Along with his studies, Esp works part-time at the MSU Union. Photo: Ben Muir.

The goal of the interviews is to determine the barriers women face that are hindering them of being more of an integral part of coffee distribution management. The hypothesis is that women will be reluctant at first.

Esp’s concern is that women have become too immersed in mediocrity, and Rwanda’s culture is responsible for making women content with a low-class lifestyle.

“We want to ask ‘What is your aspiration?’” Esp said. “Do you want to just stay in the realm of feeding your family?”

Following the interviews, the training stage of the project will begin. The team will work alongside Rwandan women to encourage them to speak out, and conjunctively understand the culture that has developed this one-sided business mindset.

It should be noted that Esp is not going to Rwanda to act as a savior to its people. By using ethnography and objective observations, Esp and his team will draw conclusions that will further Michigan State’s research in the agricultural field.

“The goal at the end is to empower women in corporate farming,” Esp said. “To make them feel they are able to compete at the same level as men, and they are able to move from base-farming to international production of their own premier coffee.”

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Trump and the exploitation of ignorance

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Trump and the exploitation of ignorance

Immigration was, is, and always shall be one of America’s chief long term controversies. Public opinion is perpetually shattered in half—liberals calling conservatives heartless bigots and conservatives firing back with arguments that suggest amnesty can’t realistically be sustained. Differing political philosophies clash like the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.

In turn, it’s become very easy for American’s perspectives to become awash with rhetoric—rhetoric laced with misinformation that has inadvertently encouraged xenophobic attitudes. So, it’s become necessary to take a more realistic look at the state of immigration in America today.

Let’s first consider Donald Trump’s wildly controversial statements—statements mind you that have given him feverous support from millions of right leaning Americans. Trump has gone as far to call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Muslims haven’t been the only target of Trump. Earlier in his campaign he made extremely inflammatory remarks towards Mexican immigrants saying, “What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists.”

Trump has repeated this mantra ad nauseam with little in the way of actual facts. Unfortunately, because of his position as a major presidential candidate, many Americans are inclined to take his every word as truth. After all, what he’s been proudly proclaiming is based on very common preconceived negative stereotypes that many Americans have also falsely accepted as fact.

There is a strong reason to believe his outrageous remarks, which are repeatedly devoid of factual information, are made to exploit and piggyback on the support of xenophobic right wing Americans.

The Washington Post did some fact checking homework on Trump’s big claim that “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Not surprisingly, Trump has been exaggerating quite heavily. Washington Post writer Michelle Ye Hee Lee found that, “Of 78,022 primary offense cases in fiscal year 2013, 38.6 percent were illegal immigrant offenders. The majority of their cases (76 percent) were immigration related. Of total primary offenses, 17.6 percent of drug trafficking offenses and 3.8 percent of sex abuse were illegal immigrants. Of 22,878 drug crime cases, 17.2 percent were illegal immigrants.”

Lee also addressed more facts that disprove much of what Trump says about immigrants. Lee explains, “2010 Census data in a report from the American Immigration Council, a pro-immigration group, shows that 1.6 percent of immigrant males 18 to 39 years old were incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of native-born males. That disparity in incarceration rates has been consistent in the decennial Census since 1980, the report says.”

Regardless of Trump’s comments against Latino immigrants, the evidence is not there. Doing actual research proves that most of what he’s said, is simply hyperbole based on misconceptions.

It’s not just the Washington Post that’s taken the issue to task. In a similar article written by Albert R. Hunt for The New York Times, more damning facts were found that put the immigration issue into a different context. The reality of the immigration situation is not in alignment with the frenzied image Trump has created with his hateful rhetoric.

What Hunt found is that “Net migration from Mexico is negative, many experts say; more people are returning to Mexico than are illegally crossing the border into the United States.” This is a fact that many people in Trump’s camp, do not seem to be aware of.

There’s a myriad of other facts that dismantle a lot of popular notions about immigration. Namely that the number of undocumented immigrants is actually decreasing. There are currently 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, as compared to the more than 12 million there were in 2007. Also, the Obama Administration is actually responsible for more deportations than any other president in history, according to government data.

Obama has developed a reputation for being soft on immigration, for seemingly no real reason. Republicans like Trump have ridden this image with serious success, rallying an anti-immigration base that believes these candidates are the strict lawmakers that will squelch immigration. Ironically, the presidency currently spends more on fighting undocumented immigration than any other federal crime.

A large portion of the United States seems to be in a collective agreement with Trump. Sadly, many have not put much in the way of critical thought and are content with letting ignorance drive their thoughts on the crisis at hand.

Trump has been allowing his dangerous hyperbole to dehumanize multiple sects of people who are really just trying to live their lives. Like every single population to have ever existed, some turn to crime, but not nearly to the extent of which Trump preaches like the end all be all truth. Placing blame on problems that have very diverse factors causing them is highly irresponsible for a politician with such a large audience. One can only hope that primaries nominate candidates that don’t exploit ignorance for votes.

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President Obama faces a challenge in nominating successor for Supreme Court

On Feb. 13, the most widely recognized conservative voice on the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia, died. Scalia took his seat on the Supreme Court as Associate Justice on Sept. 26, 1986, after President Ronald Reagan nominated him. He wrote opinions that used strong legal language. He scathingly used precedent or constitutional arguments to craft blunt arguments. Americans have mourned him and celebrated his almost 30 years of service as Associate Justice.

Antonin Scalia.

Antonin Scalia.

Hours after Scalia’s death, many conservative Republican leaders in the Senate began calling on President Obama to leave Scalia’s replacement to the next president. President Obama responded by saying that he would fulfill his constitutional obligation to nominate a successor and expects the Senate to fulfill its obligation to advise and consent.

An Associate Justice of the Supreme Court hears the arguments of cases that have been appealed to the Court and then writes opinions based on those arguments and precedents from other cases. These cases are decided by a vote of all eight of the Associate Justices and the Chief Justice.

But whom will President Obama nominate? The news media has begun speculation while the Obama Administration works to select their nominee. All of the following have extensive judicial experience either as judges or as lawyers within governmental positions.

The speculation revolves around Sri Srinivasan, who President Obama nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Srinivasan was confirmed by the Senate with a 97-0 vote. He even had the votes of Republican candidates for president, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

With this unanimous confirmation, the selection of Srinivasan is considered to be a strong choice. If the Senate votes down his potential nomination for the Supreme Court, they’d have a hard time justifying it after a unanimous decision to place him on the D.C. Circuit.

Other names that have been mentioned, and some that could be added to the short list, are Attorney General of the U.S., Loretta Lynch; former Governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm; Judge for the 8th District Court of Appeals, Jane Kelly; and Senator from Montana, Amy Klobuchar.

Loretta Lynch is the current Attorney General for the United States. Her confirmation by the Senate was one of the longest in United States history at 166 days. It was also a tight vote at 56-43. Despite her long road to confirmation, she has proven herself through her previous work as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Jennifer Granholm, formerly the Attorney General as well as the Governor of Michigan, has also been on the short list for President Obama’s last two Supreme Court nominations and his last two Attorney General nominations. Granholm has been a longstanding ally of the Obama Administration and has truly built up a lot of political capital. However, she is a fresh face before the Senate and confirmation would be a tough sell.

Jane Kelly is a judge for the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate also confirmed her unanimously for her position, making her a good choice for Justice. The only problem she may have is that she has a low profile and her record is not well known.

Amy Klobuchar is currently the senior Senator from Minnesota. Before her election, she was the County Attorney for Hennepin County in Minnesota and gained a reputation as a strong prosecutor. She was also on the short list for Attorney General for President Obama. Klobuchar serves on the Judiciary Committee in the Senate and due to this she may have enough political capital and personal relationships to get her out of committee and to a confirmation vote in the Senate.

Any of these choices would make fine Associate Justices of the Supreme Court. President Obama has said that he would nominate Scalia’s successor in due time, so we won’t have to speculate for much longer until we find out who he has chosen.


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Taiwan, China or Taiwan and China?

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Taiwan, China or Taiwan and China?

The presidential elections were held in Taiwan on Jan. 16. After Tsai Ing-wen, the first female president of Taiwan, won the election, sharp political debate has accelerated and broken out about the future relationship between mainland China and Taiwan. So, what is really going on?

For general concepts, you need to know about the extremely complicated history of Taiwan. Here is the Taiwan profile – Timeline” published on Jan. 20 by BBC news. The history around 1949 has given Taiwan a controversial status.

The conflicts between Taiwan and China don’t only exist in history, but also in daily life, whether noticeable or not. The conflicts even happen around Michigan State University.

Recently, Holden Hall at MSU posted a board displaying the “Home Countries.” As the picture shows, the Live On office put Hong Kong, Taiwan and China’s flags separately. Some students voiced their anger about the display and one Chinese student sent an email to the MSU Live On office claiming the incorrectness of this composition. The student expressed his issues with Taiwan and Hong Kong being referred to as home countries on the board.

The "Holden Home Countries" board in Holden Hall.

The “Holden Home Countries” board in Holden Hall. Photo via Kaiyue Zhang.

“The word shown in the picture are seriously disrespectful and insulting, especially for Chinese students,” Li, a math freshman who asked not to use his full name, wrote in an email. The Live On office gave a response very quickly.

“She replied (to) me in a few seconds and showed the willingness of discussing the future boards with me after I sent (an) email to her. She is pretty nice,” said Li.

According to investigation, the responsible officer from MSU Live On used the home country data from the sheets students completed when they signed in.

The environment Chinese people and Taiwanese lived in has influenced their consideration of their identity.

“The government system is different, I’ve grown up in democracy, I’ve grown up speaking the way Taiwanese speak, I’ve grown up writing how Taiwanese would write, so I consider myself as Taiwanese,” said Austin Shiau, a freshman who was born in Australia and grew up in Taiwan.

Undeniable, the culture difference is a big part of the reason why people from Taiwan consider themselves as Taiwanese instead of Chinese; however, the government education also influenced people’s perspective.

Beijing and Taiwan both hold that “There is only one China.” “The One-China Policy” states that countries seeking diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China must break official relations with Republic of China and vice versa.

What’s interesting and the real cause of ambivalence is very likely because of the different textbooks and education about sovereignty in Taiwan and mainland China.

According to the Anti-Secession Law of People’s Republic of China: “There is only one China in the world. Both the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China. China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is the common obligation of all Chinese people, the Taiwan compatriots included. Taiwan is part of China…”

However, at the same time, the 7th Additional Article of the Constitution of Republic Of China states: “The territory of the Republic of China, defined by its existing national boundaries, shall not be altered unless initiated upon the proposal of one-fourth of the total members of the Legislative Yuan…” This has been effective since 2005.

There is an important basic cognitive bias in psychology called the Availability Cascade, which refers to a self-reinforcing process in which a collective belief gains more and more plausibility through its increasing repetition in public resource (or “repeat something long enough and it will become true”).

Whatever the governments are doing, the conflicts between mainland China and Taiwan have been planted deeply in everyone’s mind.  

The president Tsai Ing-Wen said when interviewed by CNN: “Only through strength, can we gain more respect and protect our people and our democratic way of life.” CNN reporter Kristie Lu Stout also mentioned the decreasing support of “One-China” in Taiwan: “According to Taiwan’s national research center,  a growing number of young people on the island are identifying themselves as Taiwanese rather than Chinese, choosing to identify with their birthplace as opposed to the homeland of many of their ancestors.”

On Jan. 20, after Tsai Ing-wen won the election, some people from mainland China jumped out from the Great Firewall and started a furious attack to the people who insist the independence of Taiwan on Facebook. The main sponsor of this attack was Diba, one of the largest Chinese message boards on the Internet, which has 20.54 million followers while the population of Taiwan is 23.43 million.

The question about sovereignty of Taiwan has been asked by people for a long time. Some questions in Quora (a question-and-answer website) and Zhihu (Chinese version of Quora) also clearly represent the totally different opinion between mainland and Taiwanese people. While “Why do educated Chinese people still believe Taiwan is part of People’s Republic of China, if the PRC has never actually controlled Taiwan?” gained 100+ answers with rational evidences, the question, “Why people from Taiwan do not regard themselves as Chinese?” attracted around 100 informative answers before the question was closed by the Zhihu official account.

The conflicts seem to never end. Recently, the words “Taiwan is an island country in the Pacific Ocean with a democratic government” and a series of information about Taiwan was posted in the same board as “Holden Home Countries” posted before. Under the map and flag of Taiwan, a small sentence, “Information from: Taiwanese Student Association” heaves in our sight. Even though it’s just a small board in one of many universities in America, people from mainland China and Taiwan still care and fight for their sovereignty standpoint; and those people are just normal students. It’s even harder to imagine how the conflicts distribute in all other corners over the world.

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Conversion Therapy: Parental right or wrong?

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Conversion Therapy: Parental right or wrong?

Many LGBTQ people come from conservative families; those who come out to these families may face the highly criticized practice of conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is a psychological practice that attempts to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity back to its “natural” state, i.e. straight and born-gender or sex.

Opponents of conversion therapy, including the American Psychiatric Association, say that the practice is harmful to the patient. Many conservatives support conversion therapy as a way for parents to decide what is best for their child, while liberals tend to oppose it by claiming that it is damaging, due to the fact that there is no evidence that shows it works. President Obama made a statement about conversion therapy back in April of 2015.

Candles for Leelah Alcorn. Photo via Wikimedia.

Candles for Leelah Alcorn. Photo via Wikimedia.

The president called for a nationwide ban in response to the story of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transwoman from Ohio, who committed suicide after her parents refused to allow her to go through transition and instead put her in conversion therapy. This therapy causes awful side effects for the individual involved, such as depression, higher risks for STDs due to risky sexual behavior and self-hatred. In the case of Alcorn, the therapy caused depression and eventually suicide.

The White House’s official response to a petition on its website from Spokeswoman Valerie Jarrett said, “this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.” 

President Obama is specifically quoted:

“Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember. Soon, perhaps, he will decide it’s time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us — on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.”

Psychological studies tend to point toward the liberal side of the argument. The American Psychiatric Association opposes conversion therapy based off of these studies, which say it does not work and is harmful.

The APA made this position clear in its Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts, “The American Psychological Association encourages mental health professionals to avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts by promoting or promising change in sexual orientation when providing assistance to individuals distressed by their own or others’ sexual orientation.”  

The right given to parents that allows them to place their children into conversion therapy has been called into question for years and all of the evidence is pointing toward a ban. However, due to a conservative Congress in many states and at the national level, there is currently no headway on the petition to ban conversion therapy.

More information on conversion therapy can be found on the Human Rights Campaign website, including which states have banned the practice for minors only, such as California and Oregon. The state of Michigan has not banned the practice due to a conservative legislature. Both the House of Representatives and Senate of Michigan are controlled by the Republican Party, which does not make pro-LGBTQ issues part of their political agenda. Due to the Republican’s hold of a majority in the House and a supermajority (two-thirds of the seats) in the Senate, they can block any bill they don’t want passed. As a result, the issue of conversion therapy can be ignored.

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Syrian refugees and the Paris attacks: Americans’ disappointing reaction

The people of the United States have collectively taken a giant step backwards with their appalling reaction in regards to Syrian refugees.

Sadly, many have not put much in the way of critical thought and are content with letting ignorance drive their thoughts on the crisis at hand. I’m sure if you’ve looked at your Facebook lately, you’ve seen exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about.

Photo via Creative Commons.

Photo via Creative Commons.

Social media has become the ultimate breeding ground for people to go all out and let the prejudice flag fly. There are many points that expose some of the hypocrisy involved.

Many seem to fear that letting refugees in seems to guarantee a future terrorist attack in the United States. After all, it was Syrian refugees that attacked Paris!

Not quite.

The evidence isn’t absolutely solid. In fact, the attackers that have been identified so far were citizens of European Union nations. This doesn’t exactly fit the profile that the paranoid masses have been pushing.

Nor does it make much sense logically. Refugees are fleeing terrorism, they have been the sole victims – they are not in any way aggressors. They are the ones who have been left homeless and without much hope. In response, Americans have truly made it entirely about themselves, fearing for our country while theirs has already been destroyed.

Furthermore, the rigorous process of entering the United States as a refugee is already quite the deterrent for would be terrorists.

Governors across the nation, including Michigan’s own Rick Snyder, have been declaring they will not participate and are going to refuse refugees altogether.

While this sentiment is surely disappointing, it’s also misguided as governors can’t make that decision. It’s up to the federal government.

Many have rallied around the point that we should be taking care of our own — the homeless, the veterans or any other American citizen that’s been left out in the cold. Yes, this is true, but nobody claiming this seemed to care before the Paris attacks. By and large this position has been used to mask prejudice against the refugees.

People also seem to grossly overestimate the amount of refugees that would actually be coming through. The number is 10,000 and people are treating it like 10 million. If the United States can’t figure out what to do with 10,000 people, whose home country has been annihilated, then the words on the Statue of Liberty mean nothing.

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I suppose the offer has expired.


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Study Abroad: What foreign nations can do for you

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Study Abroad: What foreign nations can do for you

Leaving the place where you initiated your education and returning is far-removed from never leaving at all. There is an exorbitant amount to be gained from studying abroad that can later be applied back on home turf. Fresh wisdom is deeply imbedded in the distant lands that beckon you to venture from your familiar college in order to seize their astute treasures.

“The Beginning of Realization” was taken in China by Malik Martinez Hall and was one of the 2014 Study Abroad Photo contest winners. Photo via MSU Office of Study Abroad.

“The Beginning of Realization” was taken in China by Malik Martinez Hall and was one of the 2014 Study Abroad Photo contest winners. Photo via MSU Office of Study Abroad.

Incorporating a study abroad program to your college experience is what most would label a win-win. You will still receive credits while exposing yourself to the teachings of the chosen subject, just as you would at your original place of learning. Studying abroad, however, advances this by offering a unique spin on your classes that will douse you head to toe in the auxiliary bonuses of cultural awareness, access to novel philosophical arrays, a diverse network of friends, career opportunities, hands-on lessons and overall development as a person.

Porto Viro, a humble commune that resides in the Province of Rovigo in the Veneto region of Italy, is home to several Italian teenagers that I encountered and, without hesitation, adorned with the titles of brothers and sisters during my time in Europe with the extracurricular study abroad program People to People.  

Eager to practice their ever-improving English, Cecilia Bernusso, Giuseppe Adamo and Andrea Picello were willing to answer a few questions that might arise for those interested in study abroad.

Adamo has an unquenchable thirst to observe and understand his hometown and neighboring countries, so it came as no surprise that his interview was perhaps the most edifying.

The Big Green: What about Italy attracts you?

Giuseppe Adamo: Well, Italy is my country, where I was born and where I currently live, I’m forced to love it! But, excluding this, with my experience abroad I can say for sure that we have the best food in the world and an incredible history. Our cities are filled with special sites and monuments. Also, even the tiniest village can provide something incredible to show.

TBG: What are your universities like? Do they support a wholesome education?

GA: Italy can offer the oldest university of the Western world (Bologna University founded in 1088) and some of the best education centers in Europe. Another example is the University of Padova where Galileo Galilei taught. Usually the tuition in public schools is inexpensive and there are benefits and discounts for foreigners. There are many Italian universities that are recognized for their high standards.

Giuseppe Adamo with Italian flag.

Giuseppe Adamo with Italian flag.

TBG: Will it be easy for an American student to make good friends in Italy?

GA: Without a doubt! Americans especially are really popular in Italy!! The Italians are usually very friendly as well and make for great hosts.

TBG: Would you recommend American college students study in Italy or abroad in general?

GA: Absolutely YES! Travelling and being submersed in another culture is the best way to open the mind, learn things and meet new friends! For example, in Europe we have the “Erasmus Programme” which permits European students to frequent an academic year in another European country and the European Union finances this programme with billions of euro! My advice is: no matter where you start off, travel as much as possible!

What becomes evident during Adamo’s enthusiastic display of Italian pride and, equally, from his affinity for traveling is that any and every study abroad opportunity your campus extends to you should be heavily considered.

Bernusso and Picello had a corresponding wealth of knowledge to contribute to the rapidly expanding pool of reasons why this intellectual tool is so highly revered. Their personas are similarly laced with a rooted respect for Italian culture, both beamed when presented the chance to boast how their food and history were superb.

Although this may seem as if they are being ethnocentric, they each imperviously promote that any destination will have its indigenous strong suits and there will never be a scarcity of valuable pockets of experience wherever one may choose to study abroad.

What next needs addressing is the myth that studying abroad adds complexity to a student’s academic plan. It seems that students tend to shy away from study abroad programs for fear that it might exert pressure and time constraints to the academic year.

It is principal for these students to keep in mind that these programs are designed for students and can harbor numerous options in terms of destinations, courses and departure seasons. Considering the aforesaid, any college students should have no quarry finding a convenient branch of the program.

In an effort to once and for all debunk this myth, a representative peer advisor from Michigan State University’s Office of Study Abroad shed some light on the topic of discussion.

The Big Green: How will this program fit with student’s academic plans? (When will they find time? What credits they earn?) 

Study Abroad Office: It’s different for every student! One of the biggest things our office promotes is the variety of program options MSU offers. The diverse selection of locations, program types, course offerings, and timeframes allows every student the opportunity to fit study abroad into their degree program. We have over 275 programs in 60 countries around the world that are offered during every semester, including winter and spring breaks.  One of the most important steps is for students to plan early and involve their academic adviser in their search.

TBG: What can a student expect to get out of this experience that he/she could not gain from staying in the country to study? 

SAO: Studying abroad isn’t just a fun way to pick up some credits – it’s the ultimate experience for expanding your comfort zone and opening your mind. It places students in a culture completely different from their own and puts them in contact with opportunities to try new things every day. A study abroad experience can teach you to be resourceful and flexible. It can build your self-confidence and strengthen your problem-solving skills. It helps to stimulate your imagination and challenge you to deal with complexity, diversity and change that you will face throughout the rest of your MSU career and beyond graduation.

TBG: Are there any safety concerns? (Are students educated about hazardous taboos?)

SAO: Safety is definitely a priority for Michigan State. We regularly monitor safety issues in each of our program locations and employ full-time staff members responsible for health and safety concerns.  Students educated on safety issues and cultural differences in mandatory pre-departure orientation sessions. They also have access to MSU’s emergency assistance line 24/7 where this information is given to them on a card to keep with them while abroad. All students are also covered with a comprehensive international health treatment, evacuation and repatriation policy.

TBG: What are the requirements to study abroad? 

SAO: All students must be in good standing at the university with a minimum of a 2.0 GPA.  Additional requirements differ for individual programs and may include a higher GPA, certain class standing, specific major, essays, etc. Each set of requirements is listed on the program’s webpage.

The simplicity and worth of study abroad is due its dignified praise. It is no opinion that admiring the beautiful aesthetic of watching the sun rise and set on the other side of the world, interacting with the local peoples and allowing your perspectives to be influenced by the force of global wakefulness will have you returning stateside enriched with an endless strand of prodigious stories and innovative outlooks.

To quote T.S. Eliot, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

In lieu of recent events in Paris it is palatable that students may hold apprehensive attitudes towards this overseas journey. Nevertheless, France and other targeted nations are strong willed and cunning. Instead of completely disbanding all hope of studying abroad, one might pick a more sheltered and uninvolved country, in the meantime while keeping the victimized countries in their thoughts and prayers.


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Paris attacks leave hundreds dead, more injured

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Paris attacks leave hundreds dead, more injured

The French Flag. Photo via Creative Commons.

Photo via Creative Commons.

On Nov. 13, France was attacked. Four different locations within Paris were hit, including a hostage situation and mass shooting in the Bataclan theater and explosions at the Stade de France during the France vs. Germany soccer game. Two restaurants were also fired upon in a different part of the city.

French President Francois Hollande enacted three emergency plans in response to the attacks, working to quell the hostage situation and secure the city. The president also declared a state of emergency for the entire nation of France and closed the borders.

In response to the attacks, many local Parisians tweeted using the hashtag “PorteOuverte,” which means open door. They were, quite literally, opening their doors so that those on the streets could take shelter from the attacks. Facebook also launched an emergency “I’m Safe” feature, which people could use to alert family and friends that they were safe.

The morning after the attacks, ISIS officially claimed responsibility for the attacks, praising their actions by tweeting with the hashtag “Paris is Burning.”  Before this official claim, French President Hollande made a statement in which he blamed ISIS, calling the attacks an act of war.

Many international figureheads such as Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom; President Barack Obama of the United States; Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany; President Xi Jinping of China; and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia have offered their sympathies and condolences on behalf of their nations. Prime Minister Cameron has offered any help that France needs while U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch offered assistance to French law enforcement agencies. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere also offered help from the German special forces. The Holy See gave condolences and the President of Iran Hassan Rouhani declared the attacks to be a crime against humanity.

At this point the death toll has reached more than 128 people with an additional 180 injured as a result of the attacks. Eight confirmed attackers are dead and emergency plans in Paris are focused on treating the injured. Investigations are currently underway to find any accomplices or further perpetrators.

For up-to-date information on this story, go to BBC’s live page.

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Jennifer Granholm: Where is she now?

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Jennifer Granholm: Where is she now?

Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan and Michigan attorney general, was a dominant political figure in Michigan for over a decade. Since her final term as governor ended in 2011, she’s seemingly kept a low profile. What exactly has she been up to?

Granholm was seen as a likely choice to run for Senator Carl Levin’s empty Senate seat in 2014, but declined for family reasons. She also aided with President Obama’s transition team in 2008. Granholm has managed to remain a well-discussed political figure in Michigan and is bolstering her national presence as well.

Former Governor for the State of Michigan Jennifer Granholm. Photo via Creative Commons.

Former Governor of Michigan Jennifer Granholm. Photo via Creative Commons.

Throughout President Obama’s two terms, Granholm has been speculated to be on the short list for three positions: the associate justice of the Supreme Court, which was eventually filled by Elena Kagan; the other associate justice seat filled by Sonia Sotomayor; and the attorney general position now held by Loretta Lynch.

Despite not holding office, Granholm hosted her own political talk show, “The War Room with Jennifer Granholm.” The show ended after its host network was bought out by Al Jazeera. Granholm then went on to co-chair Priorities USA Action – a Political Action Committee aiming to aid in President Obama’s reelection.

Recently, after Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential push gained momentum, Granholm became a leader in the PAC Correct the Record, which aims to protect Hillary Clinton from political attacks, where she can act as a surrogate for the Clinton campaign.  

What lies ahead in Granholm’s future? One thing is for certain, the United States may not be done with her yet. After years of being passed over by the Obama Administration, perhaps she will have her opportunity in the potential Clinton Administration.

Granholm has been a long-time supporter of Hillary Clinton, even endorsing her during the 2008 presidential primaries. This support over the years has the likelihood to promote Granholm from useful backbencher during the Obama Administration, to cabinet-level material in the possible Clinton Administration.  

Granholm has been frequently discussed as a good pick for the Supreme Court or as attorney general, but current speculation sees her taking a place in Clinton’s potential cabinet as secretary of commerce. If given this position, she would be in charge of promoting American businesses and industries.

Jennifer Granholm’s political star may be far from set. Her commitment to public service is pushing her into the inner circles of Democrat powerhouses – where she could easily rise in prowess. Due to her rise among Democrats and the political connections she’s made, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Jennifer Granholm stays in the public eye for years to come.

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Master of the House, Keeper of the Zoo: The US Speaker Race

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Master of the House, Keeper of the Zoo: The US Speaker Race

Many people have been asking the question, what is going on with the Speaker of the House? For those who don’t know, the Speaker of the House is the leader of the United States House of Representatives. Usually, the Speaker is the leading member of the majority party in the House.

Speaker candidate, Paul Ryan. Photo via Creative Commons.

Speaker candidate, Paul Ryan. Photo via Creative Commons.

However, the current Speaker, John Boehner, is resigning and the Republican Party has found itself divided on whom to select as their new leader. The Republicans in the House are split into different factions, those of the establishment and those of the Freedom Caucus (among other caucuses). The establishment is those who follow what the mainstream of the party fight for and believe in. The Freedom Caucus is a right to far-right leaning group of some of the most conservative members of the House.

But why does this prevent the Republicans from picking a new Speaker? The reason is that in order to become Speaker, the candidate must reach a majority vote. In the House, this totals to 218 votes. There are 247 Republicans in the House, which usually means that they can elect their Speaker without a problem. However, the Freedom Caucus totals 36 members, which leaves an establishment candidate seven votes shy of election.

Due to this, many different representatives of the establishment are toying with the possibility of a bid for the Speakership, in order to see if they would be able to appease the Freedom Caucus. So far, Kevin McCarthy, Jason Chaffetz and Bill Flores cannot match up to the Freedom Caucus’ own contender, Daniel Webster. McCarthy has already dropped out of the running after being considered the front-runner, because of his position as the Majority Leader.

Does this make the House ungovernable?  In some people’s minds this shows that the Republican Party is unable to lead or legislate effectively, while for others it is seen as the Republicans taking a stand for what they believe in. Those of the latter opinion believe that one man can rise to the challenge and unite the factions—Paul Ryan.

This opinion may in fact hold true. Members of the Freedom Caucus have indicated that they would be willing to support Ryan, and the official caucus vote had two-thirds of the members in support of Ryan. Chaffetz and Flores dropped out of the race in favor of Ryan as soon as he made his announcement. Ryan previously stated that he was comfortable in his current position as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and would not seek the Speakership. This changed as it became more and more apparent that no other Speaker candidate would be able to get as much support as Ryan.

It is widely recognized that he is the only candidate that can unify the factions, and he admits this himself. According to CNN, Ryan said, “I never thought I’d be Speaker … But I pledged to you that if I could be a unifying figure, then I would serve — I would go all in. After talking with so many of you, and hearing your words of encouragement, I believe we are ready to move forward as one, united team. And I am ready and eager to be our Speaker.” 

In short, the campaign for Speaker of the House is a horror show worthy of the Halloween season. The election itself will take place on Oct. 29, so the next speaker will take office just in time for the annual festivities surrounding Halloween.

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