Saturday, May 30, 2015

We Need a Needle Exchange Program

Americans have a history of making decisions based on their individual lives rather than on the lives of those around them. This ideal stems from our American belief system in the individual and our dependance on the "American Dream." In many cases this works but in specific cases--medical problems being one of them--it is better to think of the whole country, not just what is immediately around you.

Recently there has been an outbreak of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other needle related diseases in predominately red states that have been against needle exchange programs in the past. Now that their has been an outbreak in the red states, congressman that helped ban federal funding for needle exchange programs are now going back on what they had said in the past. Though the congressman may have saved their districts some money by preventing health programs that help prevent the spread in use of injected drugs and HIV, they are now seeing how much these programs are needed when there is an outbreak.

One of the best examples of these outbreaks of needle borne illnesses in a rural area is Scout County Indiana. This sparsely populated Indiana town had the largest HIV outbreak the state has ever seen. Though in the past the Indiana governor Mike Pence was against using tax dollars for medical needle exchange he started a program in Scout County and had astounding results. If congress had been funding programs in blue states that had formerly been the source of HIV outbreaks then hundreds if not thousands of people in big cities could have been kept from the virus that will likely end their lives.

Scout County is a perfect example of the effects of short-sightedness for medical emergency that an obsession with individual success can cause. Political differences and limited funds should come second to protecting American citizens, whether in blue or red states, from diseases. Greg Millet, vice president of policy at The Aids Foundation put it beautifully, "The virus doesn't know any politics." Health care should transcend class and political differences, if America can't keep its citizens healthy then what else matters?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How Much of a Distraction is a Smart Watch?

With the recent release of the popular apple watch it leaves the question of what should the smart watch be classified as by law. Recently a Canadian man was fined 120$ for using his apple watch while driving under the pretense that it was a handheld electronic with a cell phone function. This case leaves the question, should people be able to use smart watches while driving or are they a distraction similar to cell phone usage?

I don't own a smart watch myself, but having used one I don't think I could drive while looking at the watch screen for its "smart" functions. That being said, the watch can just be used as a normal watch face to tell time so there is a large grey area. I think because of this ambiguity the law regarding smart watches should be based on what function the watch is serving. If apple introduced a driving mode where the watch logged past actions then a police officer could see the log and base his or her decision on this log. This limit could keep drivers from being distracted by watches, but at the same time let them use the non-distracting functions and not be ticketed for them. How do you think driving and using a smart watch should be monitored by police?

What Exactly Does Police Brutality Mean?

Last month an Arizona Cop, about a half hour from Tucson, a man carrying a gun was rammed by a cop car. The dashboard video of the intentional hit received a lot of criticism. The video can be seen here at about 55 seconds into the news report. The main criticism of the police officer are the many people saying that hitting a man with a car is too much force. It begs the question of how far is too far in what situations for the police.

In the case of this ramming I believe that the cop was in the right because the man was in fact carrying a gun, and he was reported to have used the rifle to commit a robbery. The man had many chances to give up the weapon and was walking into a heavily populated area and he was a danger. As graphic as the video is, ramming the man with his car was the police officer's quickest way to incapacitate him and protect the community. If a cop had shot this man it would not have made the national news, he was a danger to the public. I applaud this officer's initiative to forgo protocol when the community is in danger.

Recently the nation has seen many unjust actions from local law enforcement. Racism has been seen in some police but it is important to recognize that the police risk their lives everyday to save the community. I feel that the U.S. has gotten into the habit of assuming the worst of law enforcement when the fact is that the majority of cops just want to protect people and help their community--with no corruption or agenda. This Arizona cop may have colored outside the lines, but I still think he was just trying to do his job, not taking advantage of his position or being overly violent.

Why Have a Spelling Competition?

The National Spelling Bee takes place annually at the end of May. Every year, surprisingly young children spell surprisingly sophisticated and obscure words. Although the ability the kids have to memorize thousands of spelling patterns and thousands more exceptions to these rules-- you have to ask the question, what's the point?

Even as I type in blogger I will mistype words and correct them immediately using spell check. In the world of computers and instant spelling fixes on almost everything that people write--do people need to know how to spell words like feuilleton stichomythia (the winning word at last years competition)? The spelling competition is seemingly obsolete. Having said that, I think there are many important skills that the Bee reenforces, such as understanding the origin of words and even learning their definitions.

I think that instead of spelling being the focus in school curriculums and competitions, the school would better spend their time growing students' vocabularies. There is a benefit to parts of the National Spelling Bee, but maybe it could be changed to keep up with the current times.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Classism From Hospitals to Schools

While reading an article written by Alexandra Robbins to promote her her book The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles withe the Heros of the Hospital, an investigative report on hospitals through the eyes of the nurses, I drew a parallel to our recent study of classism in my American Studies class and even to a discussion in class about the destructive nature of the seniors last week at New Trier High School.

Robbins book acknowledges the large gap in respect between nurses and doctors in a hospital environment. Despite nurses often having longer tougher hours and spending more time with each patient individually doctors tend to get more respect from patients because of their high class and authority jobs. This judgement is often unfair, and is a perfect example of the mentality of Americans that makes us disrespect those we perceive as lower class.

I saw the same mentality in a group of senior students that had a pillow fight in the hallways of my school during their last week of school. Down from the pillows was everywhere but what the students didn't likely think of was who had to clean up. The janitorial staff, the lowest paid and often least respected staff of the school were the people that had to deal with the mess. A prank that was in good fun failed to affect the teachers or administration--it was aimed at the lowest class members of the school staff. 

Whether in a school or a hospital Americans are affected by their classist mentalities. The lower class is either irrelevant or not worth a little respect. Americans need to rethink this mentality because without nurses or janitors we might have to start doing the hard work.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Importance of the Americn Dream

Tonight, my dad spent time at his student's graduation at Northeastern University. Northeastern is a state commuter college that is often a choice for people that want education but don't have the money or time for a private university or more notable state school. Northeastern doesn't produce prominent political figures or field defining scientists, but what it does do is produce graduates that are better prepared for the professional world--the majority coming from lower to lower middle class families.

When my dad came home my mom asked him why he spent so much time watching graduation twice a year when many of his colleagues do not. His response was especially interesting: "That graduation is more notable than any Ivy League School graduation every has been." He went on to say that 60% of the graduating class would be the first of their family to graduate college and to have a good chance at raising their position in the professional world and move up their socio-economic status. 

The interesting question is not if either graduation (at an Ivy League School or at Northeastern) is important, the question is which is more significant. In American Culture is it more important that a large graduating class may be bringing themselves and their families and their kids up from lower class to middle of upper class, or is it more important that the wealthy and privileged majority of the high ranking private university stays wealthy and privileged? Out of an Ivy League School's graduating class could be a future American President but is it that notable that the powerful stay powerful.

What do you think matters more in the general scope of Americans?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How do Airlines Screen Pilots?

A Germanwings flight crashed in the French Alps on March 24th while flying from Spain to Germany. The alleged reason for the tragic accident is that the copilot crashed the plane in a particularly bad instance of depression that had effected him his entire life. Many are questioning the fact that this pilot was allowed to fly a passenger jet with this mental illness, how was this problem left unknown, how did he get his job or even his license to fly passenger flights if he had had problems with severe depression?

These are all reasonable questions, and many have been answered in many news articles since the crash. The question I have not seen answered is as follows: how loose is the screening for pilots in the modern airline industry?

If this very sick man was allowed to fly a commercial jet then who else could get one of these licenses? Airline passengers go through fairly strenuous security to even travel by air but this incident has me thinking about the pilot's screening.  In the case of this flight 150 people died because the pilot made a selfish act, but what if it had been worse than selfish. It is little comfort to the families and friends of those lost, but while the pilot had control of the plane he could have taken that plane and run it into the middle of a town, or even a major city. If this man had been malicous rather than depressed then this situation could have been much worse. Should we require more screening for pilots, mentally and physically, to make sure this never happens again?