The Caravan Crisis: Not Just a Political Problem, But a Humanitarian Problem Too

When you watch the news and see the endless stream of people form their caravan that is headed our way you have a sense of mixed emotions. This caravan includes women, children, the elderly and men of all ages that are seeking refuge and asylum to escape violence and extreme poverty. This does not seem like an unreasonable thing for anyone to desire as we are fortunate in this country to live with a secure sense of safety, freedom and prosperity. Their faces and their desperation can be moving when you individualize them rather than look at the mass as one entity. Yet, some of the fear that stems from this graphic visualization we observe on the news, is that these people may threaten those very things we treasure and value most in our society.

With comments to incite the American people and fuel the apprehension and create a sense of animosity spoken by our leaders – emotions are apt to run high. As we know, often highly charged emotions, do not always allow for the most sound reasoning. Trump goes on to inform us that there are “criminals amongst the migrants” and his response to the violence brewing in Tijuana where they are gathered in make shift shelters is to say that “these are not normal innocent people”. To further heighten the level of reaction, he has stated that “lethal force is allowed” if needed for the troops manning our coveted border. While this may seem like a swift and simple solution to a very large and complex international problem, there are more factors to consider.

The US has threatened the Central American nations to the stop of further aid if this is not managed by them. Trump has also taken the stance to “close off the entire border if Mexico is not able to manage this problem”. Tijuana is left to cope with the thousands of migrants who are in search of a better life and they are unable to deal with the demands of the care for these people as it is costing them a lot to maintain them. These tired and frustrated migrants are demanding for better conditions – but who is and who should be helping them? Tijuana is not getting the help from their federal government for their crisis, so they are turning to international aid organizations for assistance. This is not a local problem – it is an international situation.

Much needs to be done, not just to help the migrants, but the communities impacted by them as well to avoid violence, discrimination and resentment. Be creating a better understanding of their issues and who these people are as individual people, not a moving mass of bodies, fear and apprehension can be reduced. While the US is “unable to refuse migrants seeking asylum at the border” according the laws of both countries, there needs to be a process that people, all people, can understand. A US federal judge has declared it as “unconstitutional to deny illegals to apply for asylum”. These are our own laws and practices, a large part of what makes our country and way of life – how can we deny our own laws? The challenge is to balance our sense of humanitarianism with our laws and our desire to preserve and protect our way of life.

While Trump talks about the wall – a topical point in the midst of this crisis – will it really work? These people are so desperate that they are placing their families, their young children in a very dangerous and risky position hoping to provide a better life for them. They travelled so far on foot carrying what they can, the little that they could bring, leaving their lives behind – a mere wall would only pose as another challenge they would attempt to defeat with their intense sense of purpose. Funding a wall is controversial and a costly endeavor that only supports the intellectual wall of feeding into our fears.

At the end of the day, can we simply leave this problem to other nations and not live up to our own constitution? Do we not have to do our part to resolve this situation rather than have the attitude of “closing” our southern border? This is not a problem facing Central America and Mexico – but one for the international community, including the United States. While I can understand many of the concerns in dealing with the caravan – we cannot turn a blind eye to these people in need. There must be a way to contend with this crisis collectively and compassionately.





The End of Flavored Juul Pods

The main problem we have with the Juul and other e-cig products stems from the underage use and what appears to be the draw to the flavors in the juices. Since the FDA has been working tirelessly to diminish the underage use of e-cig products, the solution that they and Juul Labs have come up with is it “to stop selling most of its flavored nicotine liquids at bricks-and-mortar stores”

The article also tells us that the brick-and-mortar stores will keep selling methanol and tobacco flavored pods in the stores since these two flavors don’t have a strong attraction by minors. This is because the stores do not have as strong of a method to checking IDs. However, if someone would like to purchase the flavored products, they will have to do so online on the Juul website because of its strong “age-verification control”.

It should be interesting to see how this plays out and whether or not underage users will be able to find a way around this new rule. Will they switch to other devices such as the “Suorin”, which has flavored juices for their products as well and is still sold in brick-and-mortar stores? Or will underage users get one of their friends or relatives who is of age to order their flavored Juul pods for them online? Or will they attempt to use false identification to find a loop hole through the Juul website? It should also be interesting to see if people will attempt to sell the products through different websites after obtaining it from the Juul Labs website themselves.

I believe that this step in the process of ending underage use of e-cig products is in the right direction, but I am curious to see how minors find a way around this new rule to still get the products they desire. I also believe that by adapting this rule, Juul Labs will be more aligned with its purpose of offering an “alternative for smoking” with the fact that retail stores will only sell menthol and tobacco flavors. It will be interesting to see what happens to the company as well moving forward because the fact of the matter is, “more than half of its sales come from flavors other than tobacco” and whether or not they will be able to make enough to keep operating.

I am hoping that by reducing the possibility of having accessibility to Juul pods for the minors in the United States, that the ideology and culture behind it being “popular” and “cool” will also go away. In many countries such as Canada they do not sell the Juul and similar products and as you can see that in Canada this isn’t an issue. By changing the laws of accessing e-cigs, one can hope that this will get rid of our underage use problem in America – but when I think about underage drinking in the United States, it is still a problem where minors will use alcohol even though they aren’t old enough. As a nation, we need to ensure that online vendors for 2nd hand sale of these products also face regulation just like retail stores will so that people do not look to order the pods from there.

Once this policy comes into play, Juul Labs needs to be cautious of the rate of underage users and whether or not they are still using the non-flavored pods (menthol and tobacco) so they can monitor if this change is impactful.

Peace and Unity Through Times of Division

In response to the Pittsburg synagogue shooting, Muslim religious groups have formed “rings of peace” to exemplify solidarity against hate crimes and as a cry for peace in a stance to prevent anti-religious sentiment and victimization that is rife among minority populations. These reactions are powerful because it bonds communities rather than divide them with more violence and stimulates the development of the mindset that an “attack on one is an attack on all”. 

As depicted in recent events with the flagrant use guns as a solution and mode of expression for hate, gun are not an answer for the apprehension of the “us-against-them political culture in America”. It is time we take a new approach and utilize responses similar to those displayed by the Muslim community that represents peace and enhances a sense of community by cultivating the unifying concept that the attacks are not just on one targeted group but an attack on humanity and us all. These loss of lives and adversity should not be in vain but used to unify our collective groups into one community; America.

The issue is rooted in gun use but more importantly, in the unsolicited anti-Semitic and hatred toward minority communities. However, there is no need to fuel these incidents with more violence as President Trump provocatively communicated on Twitter that armed guards would have prevented the synagogue incident. This guns-against-guns propaganda is part of the problem and serves to promote a “culture that incites hatred” and having a prominent political figure communicate phrases such as this only endorses and glorifies this violent ideology.

With gun purchases soaring after mass shootings and comments similar to those of President Trump legitimizing the prominence of the placement of guns as a method of resolution, it could be viewed as a source of the problem. With our coveted constitution validating guns as an American right and to some degree confirming the view of other societies as guns being the “American way”, a change of mind set will be a challenge to achieve, but well worth the fight. We need to ask ourselves, “are we willing to change?”.

But will there ever be a change to the perception of gun use in America? Personally, since “the right to bear arms” is in the first of the 10 Amendments of the US Constitution and a long-standing right, I do not necessarily think this thought process will adapt easily. However, minority communities responding collectively and in a peaceful manner such as the “ring of peace” in Canada, is the proper way to react to diffuse violence while promoting the idea of brotherhood and sisterhood among groups.

Despite different religious beliefs and origins, all minority groups have experienced some form of discrimination during their lives. Establishing a sense of togetherness in light of negative events is something the rest of America can work on to achieve. When a country is divided by hate crimes against minority groups, bringing divided groups together with something they are all passionate about diminishes the desire to use violence and encourages acceptance as nothing bonds people as a common cause.

When these shootings take place, whether they are anti-Semitic, racist, or against a minority group, it is important to not dismiss them once another shooting occurs. These stories need to be told as they are valid and current to the cause. Often times, the media feels inclined to report the facts of the shooting such as who the gunman is, the number of fatalities, etc., but we really need to be mindful of how these crimes have impacted us all in some capacity as it challenges our sense of security. That is the real story as it robs us of our sense of security and encroaches on our lives on a day-to-day basis. It robs us of our personal sense of peace of mind.

Though it is essential to inform society of these events, it is not enough to evoke change in our perception as it often instills fear which is one of the key components of racism and propaganda. That is why more responses such as the Muslim communities are essential in order to shed light on the need for the end of violence, especially in relation to anti-religious and immigrant hatred. Peaceful, yet impactful reactions rather than violent and negative retorts will fuel a different view of mass shootings and violence in America. Rather than stimulate paranoia, it can evoke solidarity and unity.

More news updates post shootings about the steps taken to move forward need to be promoted as well as more discourse about the positive responses to hate and anti-Semitic crimes. Moving forward, responses similar to those of the Muslim communities “ring of peace” and the Iranian communities GoFundMe will be needed to diffuse the negativity and violence that have been so commonly reported recently.

We need to be more focused on positive off shoots and acts of cohesiveness as it will take a movement and a nation to override the act of one individual. It is the duty of each and every one of us to support the statement that “racism and hatred have no place in America” as we are America.

Misogynists or Guns: Who is Really Destroying Women and Progress?

With our nations shootings skyrocketing, one can’t help but contemplate what the world would be like if there were no guns. While this is an unrealistic concept, it does make for a better image of the world we live in today that is rife with mass shootings, hatred, and uncontrollable anger.

Stories such as these with 40-year-old military veteran Scott Beierle, a self-proclaimed misogynist targeting a yoga studio known to be predominantly frequented by women makes us realize how little progress is truly make in regard to the equality of women in our society. Whole much improvements have been made in regard to the rights of women and movement such as #MeToo, there are shortfalls.

Just as women are gaining some control and power over their lives through #MeToo as they stand up in a collective voice against men who have abused their position of power, preying on them as victims, men like Beierle remind us that more needs to done. His heinous act killed 2 women before killing himself.

When we examine this story, we can put together some of the ingredients that created this tragedy. The recipe here called for guns, racism, misogynism, anger, rage, social media, and perhaps metal illness. The one key component to this, is the gun as that is what killed those 2 innocent women. If you remove that one element, the story changes dramatically.

While guns are only part of the problem, the value and equality of women is showcased as it reveals the fact that despite all the hard work society has done, misogynism is alive and well. This raging shooter did not conceal his feelings with his graphic and aggressive social media posts on YouTube and SoundCloud.   His social media presence portrayed him as a woman hater with videos named “American Whore”, “Rebirth of My Misogynism”, and “Dangers of Diversity” as an angry man scorned by women and a racist. Could he be reflective of more people than we would like to admit? He has voiced his fury about the “rise of foreigners in the US”, his opposition of “interracial relationships as a betrayal of blood and women in them have a mental illness” and composed songs of violence against women, “complaining about the girl I can’t get in the sack”.

This is not the first type of shooting of this particular kind – hatred of women shooting. He states that he “related” to Elliot Roger who engaged in a mass shooting incident here in California killing 6. Beierle, a self-proclaimed “incel or involuntary celibate” which is a title “for men who can’t convince women to sleep with them”. As isolated as an “incel” shooting may seem, this is not the first for 2018 with a man killing 10 in Toronto, Canada when he drove his van into the crowd as a result of an “incel” scenario.

While progress has been made for women in society, with equal rights, more equal pay, equal access, and movements such as #MeToo, one single man, with one single gun can undermine all that we have done. There is a lot of anger, blame, fear, and resentment in our world which is damaging, but what ultimately destroys lives, are guns. Here is a clear example of this. It was one man, one gun, one day, one moment that killed those 2 women and questions out society and our view on guns, our “right to bear arms”, not just our constitution but the “American Way”.

No More Violence In Places of Worship

It is truly disgusting that someone has such strong anti-Semitic feelings that they would go into a place of peace and cause such destruction and violence. What is also so alarming is how common mass shootings are in America at this moment and the fact that many of the gunman’s have used legally purchased guns to do so – just has the Pittsburg shooter has. Clearly, there is something wrong with the way guns are perceived in America and have become some sort of normality.

The NY Times article says that “Hatred and violence on the basis of religion can have no place in our society” and that “Every American has the right to attend their house of worship in safety.”

This is so true – no American who is going to a place of worship which is supposed to be a safe haven and peaceful should ever have to be in fear of this level of violence and in my opinion, having guns at the entrance for the guards as President Trump recommended would not have been a solution. Having guns at the synagogue for “protection” would only defeat the purpose of the place of worship of being a safe space for those practicing their first amendment right of “freedom of religion”.

I do not necessarily think that the problem was a lack of protection for the synagogue posed by the fact that they didn’t have armed guards. Instead, it is the problem of people in our nation who have such strong hatred to religious and minority groups having access to guns.

We must start asking ourselves what we can do to ensure that events such as this one do not happen anymore. The article also stated that this was “the third mass shooting in a house of worship in three years”. It is incredible because we as a nation have made progress to reduce racism and anti-religious hatred – but at the end of the day it is not good enough. What is more alarming is that Jewish people came to America after facing horrible treatment and genocide during the WWII and should not be facing this level of hatred in a country that is supposed to be a place to freely practice religion.

But really, what can we do? There needs to be some level of stronger gun control, but will that stopped people from doing harmful acts of hate? Will this stop events such as the synagogue shooting, or will it just fuel people to obtain guns illegally? All I know for certain is that we cannot add more violence and guns in situations as violent as the Pittsburg synagogue shooting. Moving forward we really need to talk about the importance of these events and the people who were lost during it rather than the facts about the gunman, the number of deaths, etc. As a country, it is our duty to do more to prevent shootings and in this situation shootings that are rooted in hatred against minority groups.

No More Hiding the Truth

As a student of USC and someone who attends the health center fairly often, I was completely baffled by the update that “nearly 100 women accuse ex-USC Dr. George Tyndall of sex abuse”.

The worst part about the whole situation is that fact that our university, and former President Nikias knew about the accusations – dating all the way back to 1993. Yes, sexual assault may be a touchy subject at times, but that needs to change as it is extremely relevant and happens more often than we may realize. The victims should be able to voice their story without having to worry about the University covering it up and hiding them. It is appalling that there has been roughly “500 current and former students who have made accusations against Tyndall.” When there are that many people speaking out about the former gynecologist’s actions, mistreatment of patients and the abuse of his position of power, there needs to be more done to address the issue. Not only that, this issue should have been addressed long ago to mitigate the problem and reduce the number of victims that ultimately were affected. So many unnecessarily suffered through this experience and now these victims are having to cope with the damage the Doctor has caused.

At a school such as USC with its highly regarded reputation, students should not have to worry about being away from homes and their families and having to attend the health center for treatment and a time of need only to be sexually harassed and abused. As stated from the article, “two women said they called USC’s hotline to report complaints against Tyndall but received no follow-up”. As an institution, when you have this level of knowledge whether it be true or false, it is your duty to follow up and investigate into the issue and take all reports seriously. The most disgraceful part about this is the fact that the University failed to execute its duties and responsibilities to the USC community members by ignoring these allegations and not providing these women with the proper support following their sexual abuse from Tyndall. They swept in under the rug.

USC claims that they will provide a “a prompt and fair resolution that is respectful of our former students.” But the question is, is that really good enough? These students were living at a University where the one place on campus they could seek health and medical help from, the Engemann Student Health Center failed them and they probably lived their years at the school avoiding any treatment there in fear that it could happen again.

Even though I was not a victim of Dr. Tyndall, I still worry about going to the health center. What is USC really doing to make a difference and to provide a sense of safety to its community? Yes, Tyndall may be gone, but I am deeply concerned that the University hid this information for so long to protect its image and the image of Tyndall as well. Our university needs to do better and I really hope that with new people in charge our school can get its priorities straight so we can change and not have anything like this happen again.

E-cigs: Alternative For Smoking or Youth Epidemic

Electronic cigarettes, which are aimed to be marketed as an a “an alternative to cigarettes” has become an “epidemic” for underage users for some time now. Personally, I have seen advertisements on bus stop, displaying the Juul device, one of the forms of electronic cigarettes that is widely used, as “not a flash drive” due to their flash drive like appearance. These advertisements are swayed to inform parents of the use of e-cigs under their roof. In the article Juul and the vape debate: Choosing between smokers and teens, the author’s claim that “younger adults were more likely to vape than older ones”, meaning that the use of electronic cigarettes with nicotine vape products are more popular amongst those that are not old enough. The article even brought forward more alarming statistics that “11.3% of high schoolers and 4.3% of middle schoolers used e-cigs”. The fact that underage users are able to get access to buy electronic cigarette devices and the products containing the liquid is the reason that the FDA has been investigating numerous electronic cigarette companies and “whether they are marketing products illegally and outside of the agency’s compliance policy”.

That being said, it isn’t as much of a debate about the electronic cigarettes in general, it is about the market that electronic cigarettes attract, which are underage users. The reason I believe this is alarming is because nicotine is a very addictive chemical and can cause future health problems, and for those that are of age to use the device, this is completely their decision to use the device for the purpose that it is for, which is an alternative to smoking cigarettes – since Juul’s do not contain the tobacco aspect that actual cigarettes contain.

In effort to stop the underage use of the product and to truly understand why the Juul and like devices have been so problematic and popular among the youth, the FDA has been investigating into these companies “sales and marketing practices” to see if they can uncover illegal advertising the promotes and encourages the underage use of the product. This could be an issue since the Juul is so common among college students and could be in part with the societal norms of the generation that we live in right now and wanting to fit in. This could also be in part because of the promotion of the products through social media platforms such as Instagram. These underage users may feel as though they are just adapting to the norm of what college students/younger but still of age users are doing, but at the end of the day they are underaged and should not be using these products. In my opinion, is it important to note that there is also accessibility to fake IDs that could make these products easier to obtain as well as underage users having relatives that are old enough to purchase these products for them and likely know about the product. Whatever the issue is, the FDA will not stop until there are efforts and repercussions to combat the use of e-cig companies such as Juul. Though the reason that e-cigs have become so popular for the youth is not completely apparent, it is believed to have stemmed from “its small size” and “fruity flavors”.

It is also a problem because of the varying state laws of the age at which someone can buy tobacco and nicotine based products. In some states, the age is 21 and in others it is 18. Personally, I remember when I was 18 I was legally allowed to purchase similar products to the Juul, but a few months after I turned 19, the law changed and I was no longer able to. However, differing state laws and with students going off to college from states that are 18 to 21, changes the dynamic of their ability to use and purchase nicotine/tobacco products and may and an influence on their peers to use these products as well. I believe there needs to be some regulation on the differing state laws on the smoking age so there can be more enforcement of underage users.

At the end of the day there is truly one debate that Juul Labs will not give up and that is that their product is “helping people give up cigarettes completely” and “provides a potentially life-saving service to current smokers, two thirds of whom will die from smoking-related illnesses”. However, it is truly uncertain whether or not vapes and e-cigs are even better for you and no one truly knows the “long-term health effects”. The real problem is uncovering what measures can be done to alleviate the issue of the underage population using these products and whether or not these products are helping or hindering the people as a whole. There also needs to be a thorough effort for these companies to change the way they market and advertise their e-cig products as well as the social norms of the perception of underage users of college students.