By Tim O'Shea
Technology has always placed framework for debate. The mass – production of guns led to the gun control debate, the ability to burn CDs brought up new questions about intellectual property, and now the onset of 3D printers has created a stage for a new kind of discourse.
3D printers have only recently become mass – produced, some selling for as little as eight thousand dollars. But it is not the printers themselves so much as the designs put in to them that have sparked debate. Defense Distributed, an organization dedicated to making weapons easily available via 3D printers, has been making breakthroughs in distribution of their designs. They’ve posted designs of assault rifle magazines, Ar – 15 lower receivers, a partial silencer, and a coupler that allows multiple magazines to be attached to each other for quick use. But easily, the greatest of their achievements has been the Liberator, a 16 – part handgun entirely buildable from a 3D printer, except for a small nail that serves as a firing pin. After a video of the fully – functional pistol surfaced, new questions were asked about the possible implications of allowing such intricate devices to be made in the living room of anyone in America.
There are many reasons to fear the proliferation of these weapons. Little regulation stands in the way of 3D printers for the time being, meaning that anyone with a printer and a design can create a potentially lethal weapon. This includes under – age citizens, felons, and the mentally ill. And while plastic guns are banned because of their advantage over metal detectors, no one seems to trust the ban to be effective against this new breed of weapons production. Even the intentions of Defense Distributed itself are questionable, being that it is run by a self – described anarchist.
But unfortunately, those who wish to defend 3D printers and the material that come out of them may have a possible defense in the 1st Amendment. If one can defend the argument that these online designs represent the speech of the creator, then any attempt to stop their distribution is rebuffed. But this doesn’t seem to be the current interpretation. The website Defense Distributed has had all of the designs taken down, and the badge of the State Department graces the sections where file downloads once appeared. At least temporarily, the congregation of debate has agreed to stop the flow of the designs while they consider the possible legal implications of doing so.
But perhaps the biggest question isn’t whether the government will restrict these designs; it’s about whether it can. Even if they manage to restrict the online traffic of weapons designs, anyone with a USB can still transfer them between printers. And the ban on plastic weapons only held any effectiveness in the past because the government had to enforce only gun – makers instead of the entire population. When the production sites spread among the entire population, it becomes infinitely more difficult to contain the issue. It would be like trying to contain the illegal drug problem if marijuana and coca plants were legal to own. People could harvest it in their own home and easily evade detection until they choose to use their newly created product. So ultimately, whatever direction the government goes, it will be the direction of the American people that decides the future of both the 3D printing industry and its potentially lethal wares.
By Tim O'Shea
Monty Python isn’t known to address international policy issues, especially ones that hadn’t happened at the time of the sketch. But there’s a first time for everything. Any avid fan remembers the signature scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when a French knight hurls bizarre insults at a group of enemies since the knight was safely sheltered behind the walls of the fortress. Following an unsuccessful assault by the enemies, the knight only continues the verbal onslaught. While most focus only on the strange content, it still poses a relevant question. Will empowering somebody to a serious degree allow them to lose their fear of conflict? Fast forward a few decades and relocate to the Middle East, and the answer is yes.
The Israel – Palestine border is no stranger to conflict, and a constant source of military effort has been devoted to curbing the suffering. Following the 2006 escalation that killed 44 Israelis, projects began to attempt to mitigate the damage done by the rocket attacks constantly used by Palestinian militants. The result, debuting in March 2011, was the Iron Dome system, the child of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and United States funding. Stationed along the border, the system monitors incoming short – range rockets, predicts the trajectory to determine if they pose a threat to civilians, then fires an interceptor to destroy any dangerous missiles. Early testing indicated a 90% success rate, and systems were deployed heavily along the border following a particularly intense volume of rocket attacks in mid – November 2012. Although only 184 of 500 missile attacks were intercepted during that escalation, Israeli spokespersons still defended it as a viable defense system. So it defends Israel against enough attacks for them to retain their confidence in times of crisis. Now the question arises, is that a good thing?
Look at the record. Following the rocket attacks that would previously have caused them to take a defensive stance, Israel instead beefed up its offensive potential during last November, beginning airstrikes against targets within Palestine and preparing a ground force for an invasion. Now, as the conflict in Syria rages on, Israel has allegedly committed airstrikes against weapons depots it felt were threatening, and deployed Iron Dome systems along its border at the Golan Heights following the outrage for attacking Syria. The problem lies in that if Israel’s civilians are safe from harm, Israel has little incentive to avoid conflict that would put them in peril. Just as the French Knight had no trouble insulting his foes from behind the walls of the castle, Israel feels little fear with its citizens safe from the insurgents rockets. That’s not to say that Israelis should not be safe, but it represents a liberating factor for Israel that makes it that much less risky to pursue conflict. Additionally, Max Fisher from the Washington Post explains that the Iron Dome puts the missile issue out of sight and out of mind, allowing Israeli leaders to ignore the problem and allow the conflict to persist as a result, rather than focus on long – term solvency.
This issue should not be considered a distant issue for any U.S. citizen. Not only did the U.S. largely fund the creation of the Iron Dome, but its impact carries serious consequences for the United States. A pillar of United States foreign policy in the Middle East has been support for Israel, and allowing Israel to flaunt it’s power in the region with no fear of repercussions is not conducive to long – term stability. That’s not to say that Israeli civilians should not be protected, but they should not be done in a manner that allows Israel to commit actions it wouldn’t if its citizens weren’t safe.
With conflict between Israel and Syria heating up, the Iron Dome will play a pivotal role in determining how Israel treats the situation. With attacking from within castle walls being so easy, one can only hope that they remember that there are wider consequences than a launched missile.
By Kaitlin Smalling
Often times, ubiquitous national boundaries truly represent rudimental distinctions worthy of international controversy. Such is the case with Amanda Knox, who has repeatedly been convicted and exonerated of the sexual assault and murder of roommate, Meredith Kercher, by Italy’s highest court. The case that defined the difference between American and Italian court systems and the danger of traveling abroad has ignited a new flame: the overturning of Knox’s 2011 acquittal.
In Perugia, Italy for studies in Italian and creative writing, 22-year-old Amanda Knox never expected to spend the next 5 years of her life there, nor did she expect to be sentenced to 26 years in prison. Unfortunately, on November 2nd 2007, she engaged in promiscuous activities while abusing marijuana. The following morning, her roommate was found with a slit throat and sexual wounds. Authorities immediately hauled Amanda, her then boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, and Ivory Coast National, Rudy Guede off to court. After a year-long trial that had the world divided, all were found guilty.
After the conviction, the prosecution received accusations that the plaintiffs tampered with evidence, lied to the media, and took advantage of a non-citizen detainee. During Knox’s time in jail, questions regarding the prosecution’s ethic came up as her family consistently revealed information contradicting that of the Italian press. Unfortunately, the prosecution got to the media before Amanda’s lawyers could defend her and the lies that shaped the prosecution’s case largely molded public opinion against Amanda. For instance, an Italian Parliament member misquoted Amanda in a closed-door jail interview making it seem like she admitted satisfaction with the Court’s decision and had no objections to the legal system. However, both Amanda and her family have spoken warily of suicidal thoughts and being victimized in a foreign nation. A monumental piece of evidence that swayed the jury was also found to be faulty. Amanda was accused of purchasing bleach several hours after the murder and cleaning a bloodstained bathroom with it, yet neither a receipt nor fingerprints in the bathroom were ever found. The other infamous piece of evidence, Raffaele’s knife, which supposedly bore Amanda’s fingerprints, was a quarter-mile away from Amanda on the night of the murder.
This newly uncovered hullabaloo coerced the Court of Cassation to overturn the conviction and vindicate Amanda so that she could return to Seattle, where she stayed for a year and a half continuing her studies at the University of Washington. While there, she wrote a memoir titled “Waiting to be Heard” as she enjoyed her freedom. Multiple News Organizations like NBC, ABC, and CBS fought to have rights to the first interview with her after her original acquittal in 2011. Multiple media networks went to great unethical lengths to secure an interview with Amanda. Some babysat the Knox sisters, ages thirteen and sixteen, took them shopping and to cafes. Others offered private jet service for Amanda if she needed to return to Italy for a re-trial. However, ABC finally pulled through with an Interview from Dianne Sawyer on Primetime.
After the seeming nightmare was finally over, the Court of Cassation overturned her acquittal in late March 2013. The Kercher family was dissatisfied with the inability to blame someone for their daughter’s death and ordered a re-trial. Unlike in America, where citizens are protected against double-jeopardy, the Italian Court system allows prosecutors to appeal the case as many times as they see fit. Additionally, defendants are not required to take an oath that binds them to the truth, nor are juries sequestered during deliberations. No wonder jurors were subject to biased lies in the media in regards to evidence. The continuation of this trial has not only prolonged Amanda Knox’s nightmare, but has brought to mind what makes American justice inimitable. Just as any government, politic, or history course may emphasize, the critical importance of the Fifth Amendment, Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and rights of the accused in the Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court Case (1966) is not simply an American cliché, but an international necessity.
By Caitlin Schiffer
In today’s world, the internet guzzles practically every bit of information, useless, meaningful, or otherwise. Everything seems to make it onto the news nowadays and general consensus rules that the media has taken a turn for the worst, sporting stories of Kim Kardashian or Charlie Sheen on their cover pages rather than meaningful news-worthy pieces. However, individuals should judge the media on its response and performance during significant events. After all, can anyone blame the media for releasing fluff on a slow news day? Unfortunately in recent months’ tragedies, the most delicate of news stories have tested the media’s effectiveness, varying from bombings to rape trials. Has the mass media proven itself worthy of informing and educating?
Before any analysis can even be made, it is important to recognize today’s media as a whole is not just a single entity. The “mass media” encompasses not only news networks and distributors, but also (in recent history) social networks and the Internet itself, which has proven on countless to occasions its worth as an instant source of news. Owners of a Twitter account have the ability to spread information to over 554,750,000 other Twitter users, a number which is growing on a daily basis and doesn’t even factor in the countless numbers coming from other social network sources. So many individuals are ‘addicted’ to these social networking sites that they view live-breaking news (sometimes from eye-witnesses) as they are updating their statuses or scrolling through their newsfeed. And of course most of these news stories are credible. After all, who better to give you your news than a complete stranger claiming to have witnessed the act?
Regardless of how credible social networking can be as a news source (“Justin Beiber iz ded 4 realzys dis tyme guyz”), its ability to spread information is certainly to be commended and considered in the future. During the recent Boston Bombing and the valiant man-hunt that ensued afterwards, individuals were able to keep up-to-date on all of the happenings of the area through Twitter and Facebook. Relatives could gain some relief in reading updates online. Even more importantly during this catastrophic tragedy, individuals heartbroken over this mindless and unwarranted bombing could read news stories of hope. NBC News’s official Twitter provided the nation and in turn the world with a signal of hope for humanity; runners who completed the Boston Marathon that were unaffected by the bombings, after running an entire marathon mind you, ran an additional two miles to the nearest hospital to donate blood for the vast amount of injured individuals hurt by the bombing. Pictures spread over Facebook did not just display the gruesome pictures depicting loss of life, heavy injury, and broken dreams, but also the pictures of individuals comforting one another and residents opening their homes to any runners who needed a place to stay. Indeed, the mass media had handled itself proudly in this moment, portraying the tragic to inform and empathize, but also the hopeful in order to uplift if only just a little.
Alternately, the “mass media” does not just encompass social networking. News sources, previously the most effective way of gaining information, did not fair very well in their ability to provide individuals with up-to-date information. Whereas social networking sites have the ability to update when there is something to update with no monetary benefit on anyone’s end, TV networks and online news sources need to maintain their viewership. In addition, each source is competing against the other in a race to be the first network to give that new crucial piece of information. Such a need to report the information first “justifies” using a less than stellar news source to run a story. Once again with the recent bombings, many were unsure who could possibly seek to bomb such an innocent event. Thus, the media’s ugly side emerged, licking its chops and ready to profit. Reports flew left and right that the suspect was Caucasian or Muslim or African American, sending mixed signals about race every which way and offending many minorities. The suspects were tall, thin, fat, skinny, male, female, in-custody, and on-the-run. This side of the media did not help at all in satisfying the public’s need for information nor in calming their nerves, though eventually the news sources did get their information right.
Maybe it isn’t fair to judge the major news networks so harshly. After all, social networking still held the same fatal flaws. Several pictures floated about several websites, indicating men walking on the tops of buildings and seemingly guilty faces within crowds. Such pictures were captioned with some variation of “I’m not sure this man/woman is the bomber obviously, but this could mean something. Reblog so the police can see”. The poor police force certainly was bombarded with false calls that day. Likewise, social networking sent several inhabitants of other major cities into a tail spin of hysterics when claims of other potential bombings started to make their rounds. Of course security had tightened across the board after the breach of security in Boston, but later reports indicated that there hadn’t been any other threat in Boston or out following the bombings … except for the two suspects running at large that is.
Ultimately, the United States population must realize that although these bouts of frenzy over tragedies can cause confusion and are generally unbeneficial to the public itself, only adding to the hysterics, the mass media is more humane than ever before. With social networking becoming the cream of the mass media news crops, real people have the ability to give information rather than the trained professional newscasters of yesterday. Emotions will get thrown into the mix if only because normal individuals do not regularly hold the ability to cope with threatening situations. If lives are at stake, of course John Smith around the corner will become upset. He may even become hysterical if the situation is dire and personal enough. In this way, individuals must recognize the sudden source of every sudden error; everything has become intricately more interwoven as the Internet brings individuals together.
Some may argue that news networks and social networks should not factor emotion into their provision of news. After all, shouldn’t the viewer/reader be the one making decisions? As the mass media becomes increasingly more interwoven with emotion, the entire system becomes more and more a system of checks and balances. Back in the 1900s, the average newsreader bought a newspaper and accepted the contents there as true; there was no other way to acquire information. However, in today’s Internet driven world, nobody can say anything considered offensive or false without somebody else within the mass media correcting them. For example, CNN recently covered the Steubenville rape case, in which a few high school boys were convicted and found guilty of sexual assault and rape. As the final ruling was announced, Candy Crowley and Poppy Harlow commentated how these young boys’ lives were ‘ruined’ and how they had such a huge career ahead of them. Does this demonstrate how the mass media as a whole is on the downswing? Not so. After watching Crowley and Harlow sympathize with the rapists (substantial evidence backing this title), the Internet went to work demanding CNN remedy this blunder and extend an apology. Although no apology ever appeared, individuals were able to recognize the fault in the story and rebel against it. Flaws in the media are not overlooked, but are instead overcome and criticized. This obviously shows how individuals have started to develop their own opinions separate from news media. Even with the new increased integration of emotion into news, people do not simply go along with the newscast, but instead add their own opinion. Thus, the news itself is self-remedying, with one side correcting the other, proving each branches’ independence.
So final verdict: has the media been effective in portraying tragic events? The answer is mixed depending on each individual’s point of view. The mass media shares weaknesses as well as strengths. While news is spread more quickly than ever, it can be less than credible and even false on several occasions. Additionally, emotions play a larger part in information with each passing day. However, do not underestimate the media’s ability to bring hope in the most unlikely of times. With each negative or distressful post, plenty other positive and hopeful posts spring up. Negative or positive, the mass media is a source of strength in times of hardship, bringing individuals together. And in the end, that’s all the media can really do to make a horrific situation any better.
By Atreya Misra
Last week two teenagers, Danny Phillips and Eric Davidson in New Jersey, purchased synthetic cocaine from online suppliers on the website the silk road marketplace. What they didn’t know is that they would overdose, get rushed to the hospital, only to find out it was too late. The problem with online drug and weapons transactions has plagued the country, affecting homes, schools, and minors – all under the nose of law enforcement. It’s time to put an end to online illegal purchases and the other detriments of the deep web by affirming a legislation to crack down on the deep web.
First off, let’s examine the potential for this problem. In particular, it’s important to examine what makes up the deep web. Louisiana State University explains that websites like Facebook and Youtube are part of the surface web. But the surface web only makes up for about 4% of the actual Internet. The deep web, including restricted websites impossible to access from web browsers like safari and chrome, makes up over 96% of the total web. Additionally, the University of California Berkeley explains that a quarter of the deep web is made up of black markets, another quarter is made up of secret government applications, a third quarter is comprised of secret organizations, and the last quarter is unknown. So what’s the impact of not knowing about 96% of all data? Well, as Professor Michael Bergman of the University of Michigan articulates, arms trade, drug trade, persons trade, hiring assassins, and child pornography all occur more easily due to the deep web. Plus, major terrorist organizations can operate without notice through the deep web. In New Jersey, Rutgers University finds that over $20 Million in illegal transactions occurred in the state in 2012 due to the existence of the deep web. Clearly, we need to act now to eradicate the endless threats.
The solution isn’t simple, but possible. First, we need to fund law enforcement on both the state and national level. We can do this by providing additional funds to state agencies like the NJ cyber crimes unit and the national cyber crimes task force to help shut down software that allows people to access deep web sites. Business Insider of March 6, 2013 finds that the only way people can access “.onion” sites, the majority of deep web sites, is through software’s that can be downloaded from the surface web. The cyber crimes units can target the shut down of these software’s as well as “.onion” sites. Next, we need to create awareness. Most Americans have never even heard about the deep web before.
Taken together, these actions can foster safer schools, keep families out of harm’s way and prevent some of the most illegal acts. We can’t allow for kids like Danny and Eric to lose their lives in the future due to the deep web.
By Brinda Gurumoorthy
Physics and calculus are the same everywhere; a student in Canada takes derivatives in the same way that an Indian student does. However, schools across the world vary greatly in their styles of teaching. While the United States of America tends to aim for an educational system that focuses on critical thinking and application of concepts, eastern countries such as China have used rote learning, a method rooted in drilling and memorization, for years.
The rationale behind America’s preferred system, known as active learning, is just what the name suggests: in a competitive market where technology evolves at the speed of light and qualified applicants outnumber jobs available, the best way for an educational system to prepare students is for it to teach application-based concepts. For example, rather than a textbook simply giving algebra problem after problem, usually a textbook contains a realistic hypothetical scenario with a problem built into it. “Jane wants to get a pool built in her backyard. Assuming the volume of the pool is Insert-number- here, what are the largest possible dimensions of the surface of the pool?” Or something to that effect. Education is supposed to give young people a broad knowledge that they can use to solve problems in the real world, and real world problems are not going to be cookie-cutter or pure mathematics.
Consequently, an application-based program enables students to understand the reason that they are studying certain subjects, from economics to biology.
Rote learning is also designed to maximize students’ understanding of subject matter, but the approach to learning is markedly different. Countries in Asia and Eastern Europe practice this style of teaching in their schools, and they promote this style over the active learning methods that characterize American education. The reasoning behind rote learning lies in the old adage states that “practice makes perfect”. If students can spit out multiplication facts and recite the Preamble to the United States Constitution, soon the information will be etched into their brains and they will pick up speed when completing schoolwork. Speed and accuracy are the goals of this method; when students master the art of balancing speed and accuracy, they demonstrate understanding of the material.
So which learning style is superior? Of course, the subject matter in question can have an impact on which learning style is preferable; for courses heavy on memorization of acts, rote learning is the only option available. But critics of rote learning claim that it only leads to cramming, which results in a temporary absorption of material.
Students will study because they have paid to take the AP exam, but after the AP Government exam, perhaps dozens of chapters of learning will just vanish, rendering the entire course a waste of time. The pitfalls of rote learning appear glaring (perhaps because I am a student in an active learning setting). Yet empirical evidence does not show that there are pitfalls in rote learning; rather, some nations who avidly emphasize rote learning boast the highest scores in reading and mathematics. For instance, China is cracking the whip with drills and seas of practice problems; in the minds of Chinese educators, there simply isn’t time for excessive creative fluff. And with that system, its students are outpacing American students; researchers tested fourth and eighth graders in math and science and found Chinese students to score some of the highest scores overall.
There are some problems with rote learning: it may seem dull, obscure, and tedious. But if it is helping students to perform well on tests, maybe that means it is time for the United States to think about revamping some aspects of its educational system. A dash of rote learning may be a bore, but it may be for the best as well. Perhaps implementing some rote techniques in a few different subjects, such as math and science would help. A good educational system can and should implement both active, application-heavy sections and rote-based sections because both have their respective merits.