Patriot Act, overseas smoking bans highlight Summer ‘15

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 at 7:22 PM

Summer 2015.

Chances are your summer was short-lived, but full of blissful Americana: hot dogs on the grill, a trip to Presque Isle, fresh cucumbers from a backyard garden, and kayak outings on Lake Edinboro. Whether you stayed in Edinboro or loaded up your hand-me-down car to make the long journey home, chances are you barely glanced over or followed the major news stories of summer. But who can blame you? There were baseball games to watch and popsicles to slurp poolside.

Lucky for you, we here at The Spectator take news pretty seriously and would like to recap and rehash some of the defining events and stories that shaped the Summer of 2015. Let’s begin.

June saw some interesting events unfold, beginning on day one. The Patriot Act, signed into law in 2001 by George W. Bush, was intended to stymie terrorist attacks within a fearful public after the Twin Towers fell. It granted government agencies unprecedented powers when dealing with profiling and identifying potential suspects. This June, passages of The Patriot Act expired due to a lack of congressional solidarity on how to continue implementing the program. Support for The Patriot Act had varied rather dramatically. Some supporters claimed that the act was necessary in order to secure the U.S from potential attacks, while others purport that the act was an invasion of U.S citizen’s privacy.

Both sides argue valid points, although Section 215 being eliminated will prove to be an excellent decision for both critics and supporters alike: The NSA will no longer involve itself in unproductive wiretaps of the general public. This was a provision of the Obama administration’s Freedom Act, which placed the public’s phone and email conversations in the hands of their service providers rather than federal government agencies.

June also brought about the horrific incident of the Charleston massacre, in which 21-year-old Dylan Roof was arrested at a traffic stop. Roof, the mentally deranged shooter, opened fire in a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina. Eight were killed although nine were shot. One of the victims was Clementa Pickney, a state senator. It was an ugly reminder to our nation just how real the reality of hate crimes are in a nation that is still unable to accept that it has long exploited and neglected an entire race of people.

Though calls for gun control shortly followed the rampage, the conversation quickly shifted to something less pressing, but of paramount importance: the fact that the Confederate flag was still being flown above the South Carolina state capitol building. The governor, Nicki Haley, after surmounting pressure from the press and an outraged public, announced to a divided south that the flag would no longer be a symbol with which the government wanted to associate. In the end, it’s difficult to say whether the underlying issue of people of Roof ’s mental state having relatively easy access to firearms was ever addressed in the fallout that shrouded the shooting.

American news is something that our readership may be familiar with, but as world citizens it’s important to keep tabs on the events that are profoundly shaping the countries America competes with, depends on, and supports. Beiijing is one such country.

Beijing has long suffered and been a notorious city in a country noted for poor air quality, but this summer the city made the news for a much more positive reason: It banned public smoking. China, a country of 1.3 billion, has an astonishing 300 million smokers according to BBC News. Roughly 1 million Chinese die annually from cancer, which is a direct result of smoking. Largely seen as a masculine trait, nearly half of the male population in China happily smokes whenever given the opportunity to light-up. This summer, fines were put in place for restaurants and facilities who accommodated smokers. Tobacco advertisements were largely condemned by the Chinese government.

As a result of Beijing’s unprecedented step toward a more healthful future, the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrated the stringent regulations. Keep in mind, those of you who smoke, that their right to smoke was not taken away and demonized. It was simply abolished from the trains, airports, and schools where much of the public must subject themselves daily.

Other countries had their own fair share of controversy; take for instance Pakistan, home of the revolutionary and world’s youngest Nobel Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai. As many readers recall, Yousafzai was shot by members of the Taliban in 2012 as she was boarding a dilapidated school bus to return to her village. Yousafzai had been, at the time, a young undercover reporter for the BBC, chronicling the struggle that Pakistani schoolgirls faced in their choice to pursue an education.

The Taliban has long despised education, especially the education of women. When Malala was shot, it was in direct rebellion with the “audacity” of women in the Middle East to want education. Malala was not expected to live, but she pulled through and went on to become a fearless advocate for education in the face of terror.

This summer, her assailants were finally charged. Well, kind of. Nearly two years after the attack, the terrorists involved in this atrocious act, 10 in total, were acquitted of their life imprisonment charges. Only two men were convicted on attempted murder charges, the other eight were set free once more to terrorize the Pakistani countryside.

The story seemed to slip coverage in the U.S, but in some regards Malala’s offenders story closely parallels another circumstance occurring within U.S borders: the story of Tamir Rice. Rice, a 12-year-old boy from Cleveland, Ohio, was fatally shot by two police officers, having been seen on a swing set holding a toy gun in his hands, which was mistaken for an actual weapon. Rice bled out from his torso, no help was administered. Unlike Malala, he did not live to use his story as a springboard to inform a willfully blind public of the white supremacy that still lurks and weaves its way into our society’s social discourse.

However, this summer, Rice’s assailant, Timothy Loehmann, was convicted of murder. Our justice system is flawed and quite often skewed, but every now and then a glimmer of righteousness surfaces in the face of great loss.

Speaking of justice, same-sex marriage bans were struck down this summer in the landmark court case Obergefell v. Hodges under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The largely celebrated win came in a nail-biting 5-4 decision. We at The Spectator are proud to live in a country where love is not sanctioned by fear and hatred, and embrace this new law which we think is quintessential to equality. We join 20 other countries in their nationwide acceptance of marriage legalization.

And what can be said for change? America is now committed to changing our change. You heard correctly. This summer, U.S Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced Alexander Hamilton’s presence on the $10 bill was soon to be contested by not only a woman, but a woman of color: Harriet Tubman. Feminists want to know, considering that women make 77 cents to a man’s dollar, if the value of the $10 bill will now decrease to $7.70. Then again, what’s being called “the woman’s answer to Viagra,” by the CBC has hit the market under the name Flibanserin, so maybe the female future is not so bleak. 

All jokes aside, we have barely touched on the endless list of this summer’s occurrences. We have left out terrorist bombings that happened almost monthly on behalf of Boko Haram, Greek economic collapse, ravaging wildfires, El Chapo’s escape, President Obama’s commuting of 46 inmates for petty drug offenses, the catastrophic ego-stroking of the first Republican debate, and young mountains made of ice water dotting the first close up photos NASA captured of Pluto.

Yes, this summer has been pretty eventful to say the least, but that’s the news.

Emma Giering is the voices editor for The Spectator. 

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