Sunday, September 28, 2014

iOS 8... Not So Great?

I, along with many others, recently updated my iPhone software to iOS 8, which came out with the release of the iPhone 6.  At the time, I did not think twice about updating, but little did I know that this software would cause such controversy and could ultimately help criminals get away with serious crimes.

In the past, both Apple and the NSA (National Security Agency) were able to access to data from one's phone, such as one's messages, emails, contacts, location and call history; however, with iOS 8, Apple is unable to release this information even if they wanted to.  The software is much more complicated.  Previously, NSA was able to decode the details of the phone user and get information, but now the information encrypted in a code unique to each user that is far too complex to be decoded.  Apple did not intend for this to happen... it just happened to be a byproduct of iOS 8.

The problem is our world is so reliant on technology that police have been using data from criminals' phones to gather information to either prevent the crime from occurring or proving that the criminal is guilty.  Before iOS 8, the NSA and police were able to track a criminal's location from his or her phone, allowing them to get to the location of the crime and arrest the lawbreaker.  If the event of terrorists were to enter, the police would have been able to monitor their phones and potentially stop them before a crime was committed.  Matt Blaze, a privacy advocate, tweeted, "If smartphone encryption prevents the police from solving crimes, how did they solve them before smartphones were invented? Anyone remember?"  While this seems logical, police in this era are so used to using technology, specifically smartphones, as a tool to solve crimes.  The police will still be able to solve them; however, without the NSA being able to track down data from their phones, it will become more difficult and less effective.

Now, people are worried that the iOS 8 software might be used to a criminal's advantage, such as a terrorist or kidnapper.  They could easily use this software as a tool to keep their plans secretive and hide all evidence that they committed the crime.  Apple refuses to comment on this issue.  There is no doubt that iOS 8 could potentially be used to a criminal's advantage.

What do you think about Apple creating a software with encryption abilities?  Is this much privacy be good, or will it prove to be a danger to our society?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Please Don't Let Me Die"

That was all the sixteen-year-old boy was able to say after being shot in the West Garfield Park neighborhood in Chicago on September 20.  His wish failed to be granted, for he passed away shortly after in Mount Sinai Hospital.  His life was cut short solely because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and no one deserves to die because of that.

Just thirty minutes away from my home in Winnetka, dozens of people are getting shot everyday.  Chicago gun violence is out of control.  Along with the sixteen-year-old boy, fourteen others were shot between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, and it does not stop there.  Another man was shot to his death just a day later in Garfield Park, and another thirteen other people shot from Saturday night to Sunday morning.  Shootings are becoming a regular thing, for so far this weekend there were at least 29 innocent people who were shot.

The number of shootings in Chicago has raised by 5% in the past year.  Instead of progressing, Chicago is just becoming more and more violent.  Approximately 2,000 people were shot last year, and if we continue at our rate now, the number will be even higher in 2014.  Obviously, something needs to be done to wane the number of deaths and injuries.  DePaul University started a program, in which they work with Chicago ninth-graders who live in areas that are frequently exposed to gun violence.  They teach these children ways to manage their stress instead of turning to violence, in hopes that their generation will help diminish the high gun violence rate. I think this program is excellent and should become a requirement to take a course like this for all students who reside in violent neighborhoods.  These children are not violent, but when they grow up in an environment like the one they live in, violence can become all they know.  It is important to teach them alternate lifestyles in order to create a safer future.

Teaching children while they are still young right from wrong will improve the future, but we also need to focus on improving the violence that is occurring now.  Currently in Illinois, one needs a state permit and owner license required to purchase a long gun and a handgun.  One cannot obtain a gun if one has been convicted of a felony, assault or battery, been in a mental institution within the past five years, is an illegal immigrant or has a mental disability.  This seems to be a good system; however, it was not stopped shootings from happening.  In order to prevent it, people must issue stronger background checks and enforce gun control even more.  The safety of these dangerous neighborhoods, like Garfield Park, also need to be improved to protect people who could potentially be victims.  Chicago's Safe Passage program, which we discussed in class, is helping to do just this and is a step in the right direction.  This program, along with DePaul's program and enforcing gun control, will hopefully all help to eliminate gun violence, but that day cannot come soon enough.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Does "Miss America" Reflect America?

As I was flipping through channels, I came across the "Miss America" pageant and decided to tune in for a little bit, and obviously I was not the only one.  In addition to the thousands of people gathered into the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, millions of Americans were watching it on television.  Unlike other Americans, who live for this day, I could only watch for ten minutes, for I found it both appalling and against everything "America" stands for, to say the least.

The "Miss America" pageant is no exception to the idea that pageants objectify women and place far too much emphasis on exterior beauty.  There are four rounds of competition: Lifestyle & Fitness in Swimsuit, Evening Wear, Talent, and On-Stage-Question.  First of all, how could the judges base "Lifestyle & Fitness" off of how a women looks in a bikini?  There are so many different body types in our world, so one person might live a healthier lifestyle than a woman who does not stay fit and simply just has a faster metabolism; however, the judges will see the skinnier woman as "better" and "healthier".  Also, half of the competition is based solely on exterior beauty (swimsuit and evening wear).  These two rounds are also the first rounds in the pageant, so before a woman shows her talent or her views on life with the question, she must prove to the judges that she is conventionally attractive in order to even get to those rounds.


Some people argue that this competition is ultimately beneficial and better than other pageants, for the "winner" wins $50,000 in scholarship money; however, should women really be granted scholarship money for looking the best in a bikini?  There is more to a women than just her body, and while there are other rounds to the competition besides those based merely on looks, it makes up fifty percent of the pageant.  Scholarship money should go to students who are proven to be exceptional academically, possess a given talent, or need the extra money.  I applaud the fact "Miss America" is given scholarship money instead of normal money to destroy the stereotype that "pretty people aren't smart"; however, there are better ways to get scholarship money than parading around in a bikini.

The winner of "Miss America" eventually goes on to tour the United States to promote the cause she stood for throughout the competition.  While this is a good aspect of the "Miss America" pageant, anyone can promote a good cause.  One does not need to win a pageant to spread word about something they are passionate about and encourage people to help out.  The fact that "Miss America" goes on "tour" makes it seem like it is based primarily on fame, not the cause.

Even with all this, the "Miss America" pageant is still described as an "american tradition".  According to the official "Miss America" website, "The Miss America Organization is a not-for-profit organization that has maintained a tradition for many decades of empowering American women".  Does the "Miss America" pageant really empower women?  Why is this a tradition that keeps returning annually for Americans?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Is "Old Glory" an Old Tradition?

This weekend, as my family and I were walking to the Northwestern football stadium, we passed a house and my dad suddenly stopped and just stared.  Initially, I didn't notice what he was staring at, nor did my sisters.  It was just an ordinary, white brick house with a flag hanging from the side. Finally, he said, "Those people hung their flag up backwards.  It really bothers me when people do that."

"Old Glory" hanging backwards on a house, just like the one I saw.

I am embarrassed to say it, but if my dad had not pointed it out, I do not think I would have noticed it was hung incorrectly.  When I see a flag, the first thing that comes to mind is not the way it is oriented; however, to my dad, he noticed it instantly.  I just walked by the flag and thought nothing of it.

"The Soiling of Old Glory" by Louis Masur thoroughly discusses what is seen as disrespectful to the American Flag, as well as what is acceptable.  More often than not, the area between what is and is not acceptable is grey and extremely controversial.  Obviously, the photo, "The Soiling of Old Glory", illustrates the flag being used in a disrespectful manner, for it depicts a man (Joseph Rakes) aiming the flag at an African American (Ted Landsmark); however, the book also brings up many other possibly disrespectful scenarios, such as wearing clothes with the American Flag on them.  Most people from our generation would say the fashion trend of "Americana" is reasonable, while people from past generations would frown upon it and see teenagers that are wearing bikinis with Old Glory printed on them as disrespectful.  The new generations are certainly overpowering the old though, for if one were to walk into any teenage clothing store they would see an abundance of clothing with stars and stripes.

The incorrectly hung flag made me think, "Who would see this as disrespectful, and who would not?"  My dad, a member of an older generation and a veteran, saw it as extremely disrespectful; however, to my younger sister, she could not care less and probably was not even listening to my dad when he discussed the orientation of the flag.  Is it similar to the idea of wearing the flag where some people would say it is disrespectful, and some would not care?  Does it really all come down to the generation gap?

William Maxwell, a frustrated American, wrote a letter to the editor of Billings Gazette expressing his frustration about how Americans do not know how to put up and take down the flag after he witnessed a flag being taken down at a school without a proper ceremony or even folding it correctly. He suggested that students lack knowledge about Old Glory and need to learn how to care for the flag properly in order to keep the tradition of respecting the flag alive.

In my opinion, the flag should always be displayed properly; however, a lot of people from my generation and younger generations fail to know how to "care for the flag", as William Maxwell suggests.  If we do not learn, who will continue to pass down "flag knowledge" to future generations? I wonder if what is currently seen as disrespectful regarding the flag be acceptable someday...