#OurThreeBoys

Story by: Jenna Jones, Opinions Editor

There is cause for alarm in Fort Wayne, Indiana following the murder of three young men late last month. The murders, which have yet to be solved or even have an identified motive, are a mystery that is frightening many of those within the community.

Mohamedtaha Omar, Adam Mekki, and Muhannad Tairab–ages 23, 20, and 17 respectively–were shot and killed in what is known as “execution style” in an abandoned house that has been connected to local gang violence in the past. The three boys had no connection to any gangs in the area, which has caused friends and family of the boys to consider other motives for the murders.

Investigators of the murders do not believe the murders were a hate crime, but the community is not convinced. Last year a similar murder of three Muslims occurred in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and citizens in Fort Wayne have taken to social media to spread awareness of the murders, using the tag #OurThreeBoys.

There has been controversy surrounding the issue, especially in regarding it as a hate crime. All three of the boys are not originally from the United States, but only two of them were Muslim.

Although the police force has stated that they do not believe the murders were carried out due to the religious beliefs or regional background, it is considered by many in the Muslim to have been a hate crime. Especially since the murder was carried out in the same way another was, despite the differences in location and time period.

Kahled Beydoun tweeted,

Black
Muslim
Immigrant
Poor & Working Class
Dead

These 3 men killed WED. We still know nothing.  #OurThreeBoys

Another concerned citizen under the name of falasteenia98 tweeted, “Chapel Hill is a hate crime. Fort Wayne is a hate crime. All 6 were shot execution style because of their faith. #FortWayneShooting.”

Earlier this year in Plainfield, the Islamic Society of North America’s mosque had been vandalized, striking fear into the surrounding communities. The possibility of this being a hate crime could cause issues within and around Indiana’s Muslim and Middle Eastern populations.

Syrians deserve compassion not suspision

Story by: Jenna Jones, Opinions Editor

When I first heard about the 10,000 Syrian refugees who were supposed to be screened and then accepted into the United States, I was relieved. I thought it was about time that the U.S. stepped into its role and took on some responsibility.

My hopes were quickly crushed.

I believe that there is a fundamental problem with the way we, as a people, think when an overwhelming amount of Americans, specifically our leaders, have devoted themselves to preventing others from escaping horrible conditions. In fact, several of our leaders are going out of their way to keep these people where they are.

Of 50 U.S. state governors, 31 have stated their intentions to refuse the refugees. One of those governors is Indiana’s own Mike Pence.

Not only is this illegal, it is morally wrong and extremely disappointing.

State governors are not legally able to deal with immigration policies, while the President has the power to accept refugees at any time.

The claim that refugees pose a threat to the people here is incriminating to the Syrians and disregarding the precautions our nation has in place. The United States has one of the most intensive screenings in the world, and assuming that the people fleeing from war and ISIS are threats is ridiculous and offensive.

John Oliver takes people to church

Story by: Jenna Jones, Opinions Editor

In August, John Oliver focused on the issues regarding televangelists, preachers who make appearances on television to appeal to the public for funds, on his show “Last Week Tonight.”

Oliver’s aim in the episode was to point out how fraudulent and manipulative televangelists can be when asking for money. After citing multiple examples of preachers who had used the funds intended for religious prosperity for personal uses, Oliver went on to announce the establishment of his own church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption.

The church is named this as a way to emphasize the ease with which churches can receive tax exemptions. Any organization, such as Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, that can verify itself as a religious one is exempt from taxes, .

“And that is when I realized, the message Robert Tilton was sending me was that I should set up my own church to test the legal and financial limits of what religious entities are able to do. So, that is what we have done,” Oliver stated.

Surprisingly enough, his church was flooded donations from people all over the world in just one week. In his next episode, he displayed the thousands of letters that contained various amounts of money, totaling thousands of dollars.

Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption has a donation page that states all assets the church has acquired will “be distributed to Doctors Without Borders.” Doctors Without Borders is an organization that works to send medical aid to areas where it is severely needed, in order to better improve the lives of people around the world.

Alexie Evans, 12, “I think that’s amazing. That makes me really happy. It’s nice to know that they’re actually donating to a good cause, unlike some churches who use the donations for personal reasons.”

A case of foul play

Story by: Jenna Jones, Opinions Editor
Note: This is the full story, partially printed in the August 2015 edition

July marked yet another tragic event regarding police abusing their power. The current controversy is centered around 28 year old Sandra Bland, who was arrested by Trooper Brian Encinia for allegedly assaulting an officer and resisting arrest after failing to signal a lane change. Bland was supposedly found dead in her jail cell three days later.

There is much to be said about Sandra Bland’s case, from the questionable motive behind her arrest to the mystery and deception regarding her death. It should be made clear that I believe serious foul play was involved throughout her experience.

Although it is legal to make an arrest for minor traffic violations such as failing to signal, the punishment does not go beyond paying a fine. It stands in question whether or not Encinia was justified in arresting Bland, especially considering the video evidence shows no signs of Bland assaulting the officer nor resisting his arrest.

Encinia was out of line from the beginning. In the video, he tells Bland to put out her cigarette before telling her she needs to exit the vehicle, failing to explain why he gave that order. He then proceeded to threaten to “light you up” with his taser before forcing her out of her car.

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Bland was found dead in her jail cell three days after the arrest. Her death was ruled a suicide by the Waller County Police Department.

The details of Bland’s supposed “self-inflicted asphyxiation” are sketchy to say the least. None of the information presented adds up, and it is painfully obvious that something is not right. It is hard to say exactly what was done, but it is something that needs to be figured out.

To say I am simply upset about the entire situation would be a heinous understatement. I feel appalled, livid, disgusted, and every synonym for those words. Sandra Bland may have died of asphyxiation, but it was not self-inflicted.

As a nation, we should not allow our so-called protectors so much power. They may be in a position of authority, but that does not grant them the right to apprehend someone for no reason, nor does it excuse their behavior in such situations.

Something must be done about the rampant murder of colored citizens who have committed minor crimes.

The case is being investigated, and I personally believe an autopsy should be performed by an independent organization. At this point, the evidence presented by the Waller County Police has been so unreliable and inconsistent that any further information can not be trusted.

Bland’s family has filed a lawsuit against the department, and hopefully the court system will uncover whatever truth needs to be revealed.

Emptied Pollution Agency

Story by: Jenna Jones, Opinions Editor

On August 5, the Environmental Protection Agency, otherwise known as EPA,

found itself tangled in an ironic situation. The agency, which was created to protect the environment, accidentally dumped 3 million gallons of contaminated water into the Animas River in Colorado.

This has, unfortunately, contaminated the drinking water for the surrounding area, and is continuing to cause issues as it flows south into New Mexico.

The spill has caused the levels of potentially harmful elements within the water supply to skyrocket to unsafe levels and turned the river an orange color.

What to do about this situation is still being decided, and as of now, the EPA is not facing any repercussions. Questions have been posed regarding the accident due to the sheer amount of waste that managed to spill into the river. Many find it to be suspicious. However, the breach in the dam could not simply be plugged up to stop the flow, causing millions of gallons to flow continuously into the river.

The EPA will be observing the river and identifying the areas that are at most risk to work towards further clean up.

Media white out (continued from the printed paper)

Story by Jenna Jones, Reviews and Opinions Editor

Music videos, commercials, TV shows, and almost any other media outlet one can imagine are what shape people in today’s society in a process psychologists call modeling. Young children and teenagers are especially susceptible to being influenced by what they see in the media.

Although media can be a great source of information, it can also be damaging to impressionable minds.

Lack of representation in the media is an issue that has been receiving more attention recently, but it is still one that many people do not understand. Much of western media has been, and continues to be, dominated by a culture of white, straight people.

Unfortunately for people who are not straight or white, this can be damaging. Seeing one type of person idolized on TV and in other media can make a person think that is the only right type of person, which is not true. As someone who grew up without seeing much of myself in the media, I know from experience that representation is important to the way people feel about themselves.

Without representation, people come to believe that something is wrong with them. What they see on television is what they should be, but it is not what or who they are.

Alexus Hunt, 11, stated, “I think that when the media erases certain types of people it makes it look like there is only one way to be in America. The media is the main thing that most people look at for what beauty, intelligence, kindness, or even courage look like. I think the media manipulates race, and anyone who is not white may be considered less important and less valued.”

It is hard for many people to understand what a lack of representation feels like if they have never experienced it, and that needs to change. Representation in our media excludes all kinds of people, from various races to deviating sexualities and genders.

With races, it often occurs in television and movies with something known as whitewashing, or using a white person to play a character who is not white, like in the movie “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” which takes place in Egypt, but has several main actors who are white.

The director of the movie, Ridley Scott, even stated, “I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such.”

When it comes to people who are not straight, representation is even more limited. It is rare to see a character who is not heterosexual in media, and even rarer to see someone who is not straight play a character who is not straight.

Along with this limited representation comes extremely negative and harmful stereotypes that portray various races and sexualities as criminals, morally astray, or simply unnatural. The way the media controls what we see as right and wrong, good and bad, or any other combination of this over this, is something that people need to be aware of.

 

NASA

By Jenna Jones, opinions/reviews editor

In recent years, the United States government has slowed its funding of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, more commonly known as NASA. The main reasons behind this are that it costs too much to fund and NASA’s supposed lack of progress.

The argument that space programs are too costly and that it takes too much out of the national budget is ridiculous. NASA’s funding is less than 1% of the federal spending budget, and reducing the little funding they currently receive is causing more harm than good.

People in the United States tend to underestimate the importance of NASA and its research to our development as a whole. It is not just about space exploration. Since its founding in 1958, NASA has led to countless achievements in other fields, such as medicine and technology.

NASA’s mission, according the official website, is to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so what they do and learn will benefit all humankind.

I think one of the greatest aspects about NASA is that, because the organization is not privately funded, there are no specific reasons for their research besides a drive to learn more about the world around us.

The improvements to technology and electronics that have come from NASA were not planned. They simply came from the idea that something that is unknown should be explored.

As Bill Nye said on StarTalk Radio, “People say, ‘Why are you exploring Mars? What are you going to find there?’ We don’t know, that’s why we’re exploring.”

Leah Klinestiver, 10, said, “We still have a lot of stuff to figure out. We can’t stop now.”

To stop funding NASA would be to stop encouraging learning without a cause, to stop discovering just to know, and to stop improving upon and advancing in areas that may seem worthless but could change an entire field of science.

 

Islamaphobia

By Jenna Jones, Opinions/Reviews Editor
Photo by Baylie Clevenger

islamaphobiaFor millennia, humans have exhibited a certain hostility toward things and ideas that are different from what they are used to, and religion is no exception.

Today, the most practiced religion is Christianity, followed by Islam. The tensions between these groups have only gotten worse in the past 20 years, due to numerous wars, conflicts and terrorism. Unfortunately, the latter has caused a type of discrimination and persecution towards Muslims, especially in western nations.

Each terrorist attack by Islamic extremists has had a huge backlash on the Muslim community as a whole, with surges of Islamophobia taking over the populace.

The origins of Islamophobia date back to the times of the Crusades and even further, but the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 are what sparked much of the recent fear of Muslims in many western nations.

After the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France on January 7, the “#KillAllMuslims” tag on twitter and other social media has been trending as one of the most popular tags. Contrary to this, the hostage situation in Sydney, Australia in December had an entirely different outcome as the “#IllRideWithYou” tag took off as a way to make Muslims in Australia feel safer while using public transport.

It is disgusting to me that, even today, we as a society often allow the acts of a few to reflect on the character of all. To allow the outrageous and unorthodox actions of people who have no regard for what their religion prohibits to influence and encourage the hatred and fear of all Muslims is ridiculous.

“Just because one person does something wrong does not mean a whole group is bad. We’re just afraid of what we don’t know,” said Mazie Bernard, 10.

The fact of the matter is that there are extremists in every group of people, religious or not. There are Christian extremists who have attacked numerous places of worship for other religions. There are political extremists who censor their opponents to stay in power. There are extremist supremacy groups like the Ku Klux Klan, who terrorize people of other races.

The systematic targeting and persecution of people of Muslim faith needs to stop. It is in no way justified, and actually causes more harm than good by increasing tensions with a generally peaceful religious group.