Buzzing World

A long-standing grudge

November 4, 2009
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Why hasn’t the USA lifted the trade embargo on Cuba yet? Besides a few recent mentions, there was much more talk of opening up borders in the beginnings of the Obama administration. They seemed so focused on international issues at first, but perhaps they’re too busy with health care now to finish what’s been started.

I was so optomistic about Cuba in the beginning of the year. I went so far as to think up of starting my own ferry business between the coasts of Cuba and the USA, as long as I can learn Spanish in by that time. ūüėČ

I got to thinking, why is this something that’s still in effect when we could open up routes for trade and business with our southern neighbor? Keep in mind, America is the one with the embargo on Cuba; Cubans can still purchase American goods. Perhaps Obama’s administration decided it was too detrimental to a lousy economy to be given another outlet in which to spend their money.

I came up with some pros and cons.

Reasons to lift the embargo: This is a childhood grudge that one president had against another dictator.
The US claims Cuba has human rights issues it needs to address, but so does Turkey and we still trade with them.
It’s a beautiful country made popular by the movie Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights and I’d like to see it! Just make traveling there a whole lot easier.
It would enable families who haven’t seen each other in years to visit as often as money affords.

Cons: Null


Cuban cigars *Image from


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Roman Polanski

October 12, 2009
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Cover of the Roman Polanski documentary on his trial.

We really need to get the media straight on this story. Since Polanski was caught in Zurich, Switzerland on September 27th, I’ve read nothing but reports of him having had sex with a 13 year old. New York Times states this in the second paragraph of their breaking news-story.

I’m not trying to defend Polanski in any way, but I want to clear up the record a bit. Polanski did not have sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old Samantha Geimer. Allegations of his drugging her have been admited by Polanski himself, and he then seduced her but it is unlikely the two went past third base. (Check the urban dictionary on that one if you don’t yet know). There were no formal accusations of sex, but in California, seducing anyone under-age is considered grounds for a rape-charge.

The 76-year-old film director is still sitting in a Swiss jail cell, waiting for extradition. Imagine your grandfather confined to jail. Yes, he committed a horrible crime and he can’t necessarily get away with it because of the time that’s passed nor his celebrity status, or can he?

If you’re left wondering more, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired is one of the best documentaries you could possibly watch on the topic. It focuses mainly on the crime and trial, not so much his life as it is what I first expected when I stumbled upon the film.

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A primer on the IJC

October 1, 2009
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What the heck is the Interational Joint Commission? I found myself asking that same question when I came to the task of writing about it for one of my journalism classes. So what is it and why does it matter?

Some background info: The IJC is a binational (Canada and the U.S.) independent organization established waaaay back in 1909 by the Boundary Waters Treaty. It’s function is to study and assess environmental issues in the Great Lakes region, since they focus mostly on water quality of said basin, and any water that flows between the two nations. They’ve since evolved and taken on air quality issues as well.

Now, I’ll sum up what took me 750 words to write for class – it seems like the commission sounds all important and bureaucratic, but I’ve found from talking to IJC representatives that they really don’t have any mechanism of enforcement for any quality issues they find.

The commission works on a “request to review” basis where either of the two member governements submits a request to the IJC to research XYZ. The IJC uses an almost $16 million combined budget annually to finance the studies, their workers, etc. (*Canadian dollars converted to American and totaled. Budget info found through interviews with reps and this estimate)

Now, the funny thing is, this is a publicly funded organization. Yet, they are exempt from FOIA (freedom of information act) laws. This may be because of 1 of 2 (or more) reasons. 1, is they are a unique organization. Because it’s binational, there may be some statute of access in both countries, but not one that correlates to access in both. 2, it may or may not be stated they are exempt from FOIA in the treaty. Now as a busy college student I don’t have the 5 hours it takes to read it all and analyze legal jargon, but the info is there for you for the taking.

What interests me though, is what is all these money going for if they can’t even enforce any laws or actions based on their findings. What they do is make recommendations to the governements as to what the governments should do to correct any issue. And the recommendations aren’t even binding! Once the information is in the governments hands, it is up to them to act on it, implement a plan of action, or toss the report away.

So I still haven’t found an answer as to why the IJC is so important, but it should be noted that they are having a HUGE biennial meeting soon, and if this at all intrigues you, an MSU group is shuttling students there for free.

Is the drug war Mexico’s problem?

March 28, 2009
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I want to draw your attention to the drug war being dueled out in Mexican cities. The story made headline news in yesterday’s edition¬†of¬†the New York Times. (Here’s the online article) This sparked a wave of other publications, but perhaps now that this is making it’s way to the top of Obama’s agenda, it’s getting more buzz. Needless to say, the president has many other issues to deal with, but this is one involving lives of Mexicans, and potential military action from the states – which I fear is one of¬†the biggest concerns on the state-side of the battle. Obama is quoted as saying, “I think if one U.S. citizen is killed because of foreign nationals who are engaging in violent crime, that’s enough of a concern to do something about it.” That is what could get him to finally send troops to the dangerous areas, but why is one American death enough to push Obama over the edge to act, considering more than 7,000 people have already died since approximately¬†January of 2007.
7,000 people!

Where was Bush on this issue? Building a wall between Mexico and the states to stop this. So was this wall effective? Perhpas it’s curtailed illegal immigration, but any immigrant desperate enough will find a way over. It’s scary to think that construction of the wall was just under discussion, now it’s real. Haven’t we always been taught in history courses that the roll of studying history is to learn from past mistakes? Does this wall between Mexico and the states remind anyone else of the Berlin Wall or the Iron Curtain?

The saddest part is that America’s mostly at fault, in my opinion. Americans are the ones who have created the demand for Mexican drugs, and mexicans are the ones killed for it. Our demand together with the capability of paying for drugs, increase illegal smugglings, and eventually dangerous shootouts.

Which brings me to my next point, that not only are Americans funding the dollars for drugs, but the guns that killed so many. Guns from our side of the border are traded for drugs, then end up turning on other smugglers on Mexico’s side.

I admire both Obama and Mexican president, Felipe Calderon’s, efforts to keep peace between the two countries despite a civil war in Mexico caused by the United States. I’m glad Obama is speeding this issue to the front of his agenda, and stepping in to represent his people, be they drug addicts or not.

The only question that remains in my mind is, was this fueled by the recession in the states (and now in Mexico as well). Where did all these addicts get their drugs before they started demanding so much from Mexico? Did American dealers jack up their prices along with inflation? Or did the DEA just do such a good job of cleaning them up?

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Melodies of MSU

February 19, 2009
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Who out there believes classical concerts are just a good and important as rock, ska, or rap?

MSU is certainly a good stage for the indie, local, rock, and alternative scene, but is also host to international classical music, and the occasional a cappella show.

The Tokyo String Quartet played a concert at the Wharton Center on Friday the 13th of February. The quartet of seasoned professional string players moved the crowd with their emotional performance, according to spartanedge‘s editor-in-chief.

For those of you that missed the performance, it’s not too late to see another great worldly performance at the Wharton Center.

Upcoming Performances:
Up until a couple days ago, African Footprint, was to be performed at the Wharton Center. As of right now the Wharton Center’s site writes that the show is canceled. The show is a history of South Africa, told through Afro- and Euro-centric song and dance. The show has been performed since 1999 in front of many influential people, such as:¬† Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, and Prince Charles.

Thursday February 26th. The Artist as World Theater: The Foreign Language Learner as an Artist. This is a lecture, not a musical performance that will be held in room 201 of the international center at noon.

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I want to let everyone in on something amazing…

February 12, 2009
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What would you do in a situation where you find yourself in a city without a booking in a hotel, hostel, motel, or no camp ground to unroll your sleeping bag, an no local acquiantance? What’s your last option for the night if you don’t feel comfertable finding a far-away spot in a park?

What it is
If you are an adventurer looking for new experiences with some amazing people, then your option is called “couchsurfing.” It’s a global community of people linked by the common thread of lending their couch for the night to strangers traveling in their area. (Read the couchsurfing mission statement) If you really are stuck in a city with no accomodation, hopefully you’ll at least have the internet since you can’t access couchsurfing any other way.

Good news for those traveling, CS is ready to expand their members to the 1 million mark. That means that are 1 million like-minded travelers out in the world, and 690,367 couches available for you to snooze on! (There are only 690 thousand of those million couches available because not all couches are available at one time, many hosts are travelers themselves and are away, or simply cannot host at this time because of work, school, etc.)

Personal Experience
I’ve hosted and I’ve surfed, and I find hosting just as fun, if not more, as doing the traveling. I took my couchsurfer to Capitol Hill,¬†Old Town, Clare’s Lansing Station, and to some bars around EL. Don’t worry, you’re not devoted to spending every minute with your CSer. He took the time himself to wander through campus and EL. Overall, we both had great experiences. If you’d like to do the same, consider joining.

Couchsurfing may not be for everyone. Safety risks are involved since you are¬†counting on your host not being a creeper, rapist, or other horrible personalities that are out in the world. On the lighter side, hosts must be verified, you have many options when choosing a host, and there haven’t been any documented safety issues between hosts and surfers to date. CS has taken their own precautions on the matter, but always make sure your host is verified and has plenty of recommendations to back him/her up.

Try it!
With couchsurfing you are absolutely unlimited in places and experiences. The best part is, you never know who you’ll meet. 67,343 friendships have been created worldwide because of couchsurfing alone. Now no one will ever have to say they don’t have any friends abroad! There are 1 million prospective friends out there for everyone!

There are other ways to get involved beyond lending your couch to someone for the night. If you’re a member, there are many groups you can join which regularly have meetings organized by the surfers themselves. This is how I experienced “Noel Night” in Detroit for the first time.

Think you have some fun times and a cozy couch to offer? Or are you interested in joining yourself? Then take 10 minutes to sign up!

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About author

I'm a journalism senior at MSU... finally! I'm anxiously awaiting a move to Detroit in the spring. I'm the photo editor and I occasionally write for which includes lots of photo essays and gathering audio. My interests include photography (obviously), astronomy, traveling, art, literature, languages, music, and society.