Trump’s Claims Frame Refugees as Terrorists

By Lily Spechler, The Vermont Cynic

 

“This is a nation-wide soul search,” my father’s friend Dmitri said regarding the Syrian refugee crisis.

Dmitri is the son of Greek refugees, political asylum seekers, who fled Greece in hopes of a better life in America.

The question is, are we still a nation that opens our arms to refugees, or not.

However, aside from choosing between morality and economics, the larger issue at play is the spreading of misinformation.

President Donald Trump’s administration has been rightfully accused of playing off people’s fears and spreading misinformation about refugees, and citizens are forming opinions based on these lies.

Trump is using propaganda tactics to frame the refugees as terrorists, when this is simply not the case.

The Syrian refugee crisis was born out of a democratic uprising that began in 2012 to oppose the totalitarian Assad regime.

The Syrian regime responded with chemical weapons against its own people.

According to Mercy Corps, a U.S. global humanitarian aid agency, more than 11 million people have been killed or forced to flee their homes since the start of the uprisings.

Although the crisis is far more complex than that, it is unfair and unjust to paint the refugees as terrorists when in reality they are mostly civilians fleeing the hell that they are trapped inside of.

Of the 784,000 refugees resettled in the U.S since 9/11, a total of three have been charged with plotting terrorist acts, according to political news blog thinkprogress.org.

Trump falsely claimed that a group of Syrians were busted for trying to sneak through the border.

The exact tweet reads: “Eight Syrians were just caught on the southern border trying to get into the U.S. ISIS may- be? I told you so. WE NEED A BIG & BEAUTIFUL WALL.”

This is simply untrue.

“Two asylum-seeking families, including four children, ‘presented themselves’ at the border and were detained… government officials confirmed there was no evidence of any connection to terrorism,” according to the Huffington Post.

Trump is making it seem as if we have no control over our borders, and the situation is entirely unmanageable.

At an inauguration speech in June, Trump stated: “We have to stop the tremendous flow of Syrian refugees into the United States — we don’t know who they are, they have no documentation, and we don’t know what they’re planning.”

This is false. Of all the ways to enter the U.S., the vetting process for Syrian refugees is probably the lengthiest and most time consuming.

The process typically takes up to 18-24 months, and involves multiple federal intelligence and security agencies, and refugees also don’t have

a choice as to which country they are resettled in. To say that they have no documentation is just wrong.

Trump’s administration also attempted to heighten the country’s fear levels by releasing a list of 78 terror-related attacks, and accusing the media of underreporting these attacks.

However, “Many of the attacks cited, such as the attack of the Orlando night club shooting last June and 2015 attacks in San Bernardino, Calif. and Paris, were extensively covered by the media around the clock,” according to a Feb. 6 NPR article.

As a Jewish girl, I have learned all too well what propaganda was capable of doing in Germany.

I am in America because my immigrant ancestors sought a better life.

Although I am not positing that there is a one shot simple solution to our stance on the refugee crisis, I do think that it is a humanitarian travesty to turn a blind eye to blatant propaganda in the United States of America.

We are living in the Age of Information trapped inside a nation of misinformation, and it’s time to break the cycle.

Santa Invests in “Clean Coal” this Christmas

By Lily Spechler, The Vermont Cynic

It’s that time of year again: Christmas cheer is in the air. However, it seems we’ve got some bad, bad hombres in this country and as a result we all might be getting coal in our stockings. Thankfully, though, this coal is … clean?

There are two myths I would like to debunk: since we’re living in the information age and all. First off, Santa is not real. Sorry, that was harsh, but its about time the truth comes out. Second, there is no such thing as clean coal.

According to National Geographic Magazine, coal was the largest contributor to the record amount of carbon dioxide spewed into the atmosphere in 2012. Carbon dioxide, of course, is said to contribute to global climate change.

Clean coal is marginally less filthy coal. “Clean coal” is a band-aid, the crappy kind that doesn’t even really stick on in the shower. It is a very, very short term cover-up to a much larger problem that will only continue to grow if we do not address it.

I asked U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders vie e-mail what he thought about the idea of clean coal. Daniel McClean, a spokesman for Senator Sanders responded with this statement via e-mail:

“At a time when we should be aggressively transitioning away from fossil fuels toward sustainable energy, it does not make sense to waste millions of dollars on unproven technologies to try to keep coal alive.”

Are you starting to feel the Bern?

There are a few “clean coal” emerging technologies, such as “coal washing”, which removes some of the unwanted materials such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides before the coal is burned and carbon and other pollutants get released into the air as flue gas; Carbon is still being emitted during this process.

However, according to Kathleen Hartnett-White, this really shouldn’t be an issue.

Harnett-White is the director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the Texas Public Policy foundation, and the potential future leader of the Environmental Protection Agency according to our President-elect. To say the least, she has a very creative spin on the whole “climate change” thing.

“Carbon dioxide has no adverse impact in the air we breath at all,” Hartnett-White said. “It’s a harmless trace gas that is actually an essential nutrient for plants.”

Interesting, considering that the EPA currently states on its website that excess carbon dioxide, which is released from the burning of fossil fuels, makes up for 81% of greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change.

Perhaps Harnett-White hasn’t done her research yet. Perhaps she should start by visiting the EPA’s website, where the current government consensus opinion on the impact of carbon emissions on the environment is stated and backed by scientific evidence. But that’s okay, she has plenty of time to brush up on the topic before she assumes her position.

Carbon capture and sequestration is another technology that claims “clean coal”. Proponents of CCS posit that carbon could be separated and captured during the burning process and stored in the earth instead of being released into the atmosphere.

To be fair, there is potential here, scientists have just begun to scratch the surface with this technology. However, according to Slate magazine, commercial CCS systems cost tens of billions of dollars, and won’t be practical for decades.

Furthermore, there is not enough research available currently to determine what the effects of pumping multitudes of carbon into the earth will be, but seismologists are skeptical, according to ThinkProgress, a progressive site.

Carbon is not even the only issue with coal. According to an article in Time Magazine, while the industry has “improved filters on coal plants” it still lives behind a growing toxic waste problem with pollutants like mercury and Sulfur dioxide.

But not to worry! At least Steve Bannon, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for chief strategist, will serve as the voice of reason. Oh, wait…

According to E&E news, an online media company that covers environmental and energy policy markets, Bannon said “… environmentalists are ‘greentards’ and ‘totally fu**ing wrong on climate change’”.

(“Greentards?” Really?)

Or perhaps we can turn to Reince Priebus, incoming White House chief of staff. Priebus, help us please!

Nope. Priebus told Fox News that climate change denial would be Trump’s “default position.” At least now we’ll have a really huge wall to bang our heads on. Gracias, señor Trump.

Anyway, for all you “greentards” drafting your Christmas holiday wish lists this year, please consider including “sanity” or perhaps “justice” somewhere very near the top.

Happy holidays to all, and sorry about the whole Santa thing.

 

The Deafening Truth about Millennial Tunes

By Lily Spechler, The Vermont Cynic

It’s no wonder millennials are so uninformed. We can’t hear a damn thing.

Doctors warn that the access to loud music through earphones will lead to a generation with hearing loss.

One billion young people are at risk of hearing loss because of personal audio devices and damaging levels of sound at entertainment venues like electronic dance music festivals, where noise levels can top 120 decibels for hours, according to the World Health Organization.

One in five teens have some form of hearing loss, which is up by 30 percent since the 90’s, according to the American Osteopathic Associ- ation.

Next to HTML and Chinese, perhaps sign language will be the next most important language to learn.

We should all start listening to more songs like John Cage’s “4’33”. In other words, we should start listening to more silence.

So the question is, how loud is too loud?

The answer is simple. Basically, if you can’t hear noise around you, turn the volume down. You’re jamming too hard. If you are drowning out the sounds around you, that means you are playing your device almost at the same decibel level of an EDM concert (120 decibels). Damage also coincides with duration (duh). The longer the loud, the less you’ll hear.

The worst part is that hearing loss from loud noise is irreversible.

Think of your ear like a tissue box. Every time you take a tissue out of the box, you are one step closer to having an empty box and a dripping nose. To make a long story short, there are hair cells in your inner ear, and attached to these cells are stereocilia, or hairs that stick out.

The bending of these hairs are responsible for triggering the reaction that tells your brain to hear. However, if these hairs are bent too far from loud noises, they die or are permanently damaged, and they can never regenerate.

Once you start noticing signs of hearing loss, there is nothing that can be done, aside from wearing hearing aids. Preventative action is key.

The top signs of hearing loss are ringing in one’s ears, perceiving others to be mumbling, asking people to repeat themselves, speaking loudly without intending to, or having difficulty talking on the telephone.

Symptoms may also include tolerating country music, thinking President Donald Trump knew anything about politics after listening to him during the debates and watching more than 10 minutes of “The Bachelor” without realizing that it is unwatchable.

Hearing loss is gradual, and individuals often do not notice for a long time.

William Shakespeare put it best in “Romeo and Juliet.”

“The sweetest honey is loathsome in its own deliciousness. And in the taste destroys the appetite. Therefore, love moderately.”

Just do less. You heard it here first. Or did you?

How rewriting history could save the planet

By Lily Spechler, the Vermont Cynic

AC/DC, the world famous Australian rock band, had it right when they said we were on the highway to hell.

AC/DC stands for “alternating current” and “direct current,” and represents the “War of Currents” that took place in the late 1880s.

Thanks to the biases of modern day textbooks, U.S. citizens are fed a shortsighted perspective in school that serves as the basis for understanding history at a young age.

Students are given blinders and told to accept that Christopher Columbus was a noble hero.

In the U.S., agriculture is responsible for 80 percent of the nation’s water use, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

I wonder if this number would be lower if we decided to take after the practices of the Native Americans rather than attempting to erase their culture from existence.

We are told to accept the U.S. as an economic world power, and fail to reiterate that we kickstarted our economy by relying on the free labor of slaves.

While everyone knows the story of Thomas Edison, the part that was left out of textbooks is that Thomas Edison had a very close rival named Nikola Tesla.

Edison hired Tesla as part of his company, Continental Edison Company, in 1882. Shortly afterward, the two went head-to-head with their competing ideologies, a battle later known as the War of the Currents.

Thomas Edison’s model used “direct current” to transmit energy to the people, which was one-directional, low voltage and safe.

Nikola Tesla fathered “alternating current” which meant that the electrical current could switch directions, and was the riskier of the two because of the higher voltage.

AC was, in fact, the ultimate victor, because DC was less capable of traveling long distances, but Edison got all the fame.

The question is, why didn’t Tesla make it into any of the history textbooks?

According to a video created by energy.gov, Edison was truly a businessman at heart. His goal was to monetize every part of the process and privatize electricity.

This juxtaposed Tesla’s ideology, which fought to provide free electricity and information for all. Edison felt threatened by Tesla, and launched a propaganda campaign to delegitimize him.

According to History, the cable and satellite television channel, the campaign involved publicly electrocuting large animals to show that the current was dangerous.

“By failing to include both opposing stories, the student reader is forced to understand and interpret a one-sided view of the history of electricity,” senior Nicole Kim said.

I believe that over time Tesla’s name faded out of the textbooks because his ideology did not align with the U.S.’ long-standing goal of having a perpetually increasing economy. But this is a goal that must be broken down and revised.

We are living in the Anthropocene, a geological age where human activity has disrupted the earth so much that the planet can no longer function according to its natural rhythms.

According to MSNBC, if everyone in the world lived the way we live in the U.S., it would take five earths to sustain us. 2014 was the hottest year on record, and scientists predict that temperatures will continue only to rise.

It is time to take the leap to renewables and rewrite our history.

According to CleanTechnica, the popular news site for clear technology news and commentary, “in a single year, the sun delivers about twice as much energy as we have ever gotten (or will ever get) out of a nonrenewable energy source.”

Tesla, Inc. is an American automaker, energy storage company and solar panel manufacturer that is absolutely revolutionizing the world.

According to Business Insider, Tesla was named after Nikola Tesla, the mastermind behind the AC induction motor; the company shapes their motor after Tesla’s invention, and seeks to emulate Nikola Tesla’s risky, efficient and anti-capitalist spirit.

In an interview with Wired on October 21st, 2012 Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, weighed in on the concept of risk.

“There’s a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering,” he said.

Albert Einstein got it right when he famously said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

By continuing to deliver a one-sided version of history in textbooks, we are only perpetuating the outcome of a wasteful and unsustainable society.

It is time to overcome the biases we have against risk and anti-capitalist motives and start to incorporate new perspectives on our past in order to foster a transcendental future.

New technology takes fake news to multimedia level

By Lily Spechler, the Vermont Cynic

With the velocity of information perpetually on the rise, it’s impossible to slow down long enough to discern fact from fiction.

Fake news is the intentional spread of misinformation, and though the news might be fake, the repercussions are very real.

For example, a Dec. 20 article published by AWDNews mistakenly quoted former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon as threatening to destroy Pakistan with a nuclear attack if it sent troops into Syria.

This fake-news story led to a terrifying response by Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif, who assumed the news story was real.

“[Yaalon] threatens nuclear retaliation presuming Pakistan’s role in Syria against Daesh. Israel forgets Pakistan is a nuclear state too,” Asaf tweeted Dec. 23.

And who could forget the “Pizzagate” scandal, which claimed Hillary Clinton was operating a child-sex trafficking ring in a pizzeria and led to an attack by infuriated Edgar Maddison Welch using AR-15 assault rifle.

Welch was attempting to investigate the truth for himself, but authorities did not necessarily agree with his forensic tactic, to say the least.

Although no one was injured by Welch, I can’t say the same for the poor, poor victims of the “Bowling Green Massacre”. Oh wait—Kellyanne Conway made that story up on live television, according to Politifact, a fact checking website.

I believe there is a difference between fake news and propaganda, but unfortunately propaganda is occurring in the U.S. at the same time as fake news, and no one knows who to believe.

This is especially problematic since our president is doing everything in his power to discredit the media and paint himself to be the only credible source.

On Feb. 7 President Trump mistakenly reported that the crime rate is the highest it has been in 47 years in order to promote his immigration and deportation policies.

Although there was a slight spike between the years 2014 and 2015, Trump’s statement was a blatant lie.

In fact, the number of number of murders declined by 42 percent between 1993 and 2014, according to Politifact.

It is hard to prove whether or not Trump is lying intentionally, but the fact that his statements are false is indisputable. Not only are Trump’s statements untrue, he is using those falsities as the basis for very real policies.

The scariest part of all of this is the spread of misinformation is about to get a whole lot scarier.

According to a research paper published June 2016 by professors from Stanford University and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, technologists are capable of controlling someone’s facial expressions on camera in live time.

For facial re-enactment to work, there must be a “source actor” who is controlling the facial expressions of a “target actor.”

During a live video, both the facial expressions of the target actor and the source actor are tracked, and technologists “convincingly re-render the synthesized target face on top of the corresponding video stream such that it seamlessly blends with the real-world illumination,” according to the article. In other words, even though the target actor might be smiling in a live video, if the source actor is frowning, the target actor will appear to be frowning.

I highly recommend watching the YouTube demonstration to fully understand how easy it is to be fooled by this technology.

Simply type in “Face2Face: Real-time Face Capture and Reenactment of RGB Videos,” and prepare for your mind to be blown.

What happens when live speeches are hacked?

Vanity Fair pointed out a potential scenario in which a political group creates a fake video of Trump saying he is going to drop a nuclear bomb on China. The velocity of news contagion would mean that the Trump administration would have very little time to prove that the video was fake and avert an international crisis.

If we’re getting duped by both print and video media sources, how will we filter out the truth?

There is reason to be alarmed here, and I hope that you don’t find this media warning too ironic to take seriously.

Elon Musk eases environmental concerns

By Lily Spechler, The Vermont Cynic

CNBC called Elon Musk the 21st century Thomas Edison.

Elon Musk is the CEO of American auto maker and energy storage company Tesla, co-founder of Solar-City, the CTO of rocket and spacecraft company SpaceX; and he has a few words to ease your environ-minds with regard to our new secretary of state and former CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson.

In my opinion, Musk’s approach to the new conservative era is a perspective worth thinking about.

Musk openly tweeted his support of Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, which absolutely floored his environmental followers.

The tweet was in response to the The Economist’s tweet, which read, “Rex Tillerson has been narrowly approved as U.S. secretary of state. He has the integrity to talk sense to his boss.”

Musk’s response tweet, directed at TheEconomist said, “This may sound surprising coming from me, but I agree with The Economist. Rex Tillerson has the potential to be an excellent Sec of State.”

Musk also noted that Tillerson stands by the idea that a carbon tax could make sense.

Although Exxon isn’t exactly the beacon of “green” is indisputably one of the largest and most powerful corporations in the country and in the world.

Tillerson reaches a demographic people that most environmentalists cannot reach, which is exactly why his acknowledgement of climate change is such an important asset to the environmental movement.

Recently, Exxon has seen revenues plummet. Exxon reported that in 2015, they earned $16.2 billion, compared to $32.5 billion the year before. Experts largely ascribe this revenue drop to the fact that greener alternatives are finally becoming more economically viable.

According to CNBC, Tillerson “stressed the need the need for ‘a uniform standard to hold all nations accountable,’ saying that the challenge of climate change is global, and that nations developing now are likely to generate a considerable amount of carbon emissions in the future.”

Tillerson’s motives are definitely questionable. Does he truly care about the health of the environment, or is he simply trying to bridge the growing revenue gap and appeal to a greener audience?

Regardless, the fact that he is not only acknowledging climate change, but suggesting that he is open to preventative action, is a huge victory. Tillerson has a plethora of right leaning followers, and if he is recognizing that climate change is real, then hopefully his followers will begin to do the same.

The right-leaning White House is scary to the environmental community, but there is merit in recognizing that it is not as if right leaning conservatives never existed in our country before this election. Perhaps this will be the perfect opportunity to learn to speak conservative language, and figure out a way to connect with the portion of our country that environmentalists have never fully connected with before.

According to Musk, “Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.”

I don’t know about you, but when a futurist like Elon Musk speaks, I take a moment to listen. Certainly, this election sparked change. But it doesn’t necessarily need to spark disaster.

Memes for Bustle Digital Group

Visualizing Weightlessness

 

 

I wrote this poem for all of the people in my life who struggle with depression or anxiety and get down on themselves whenever they spiral back into a bad place. My hope is that when you hear these words you remember that you never need to be attached to any state of mind or being, you can always decide to shed yourself, evolve and visualize weightlessness.