Sunday, April 29, 2007

Don't Make a Promise You Can't Keep

And be these juggling fiends no more believed,
That palter with us in a double sense,
That keep the word of pr
omise to our ear,
And break it to our hope.
-Shakespeare in Macbeth

Decoding Shakespeare’s famous words is always a daunting task. Yet from this excerpt I reason that Shakespeare meant, promises are serious-and when broken the results can be devastating. President Bush’s recent promise of combating HIV/AIDS through a five-year plan and $15 billion dollar budget is one promise that we all hope he can keep.

The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was announced by President Bush at the State of the Union address in 2003 and was to occur over the following five years. The plan is the largest commitment ever by a single nation toward an international health initiative with the goal of support for treatment for 2 million HIV infected people, support for prevention of 7 million new infections, and support for care for 10 million people infected or affected by HIV/AIDS (according to PEPFAR). Last Thursday, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Mark Dybul and Executive Director of the AIDS Support Organization (TASO), Dr. Alex Coutinho came to the University of San Francisco to discuss PEPFAR amongst Nursing students, African Studies students, and students with a global perspective and concern.

PEPFAR is a plan that incorporates many strategies and partnerships in its fight against HIV/AIDS. One strategy is the ABC (Abstain, Be faithful, and the correct and consistent use of Condoms) approach. Ambassador Dybul said that this approach specifically aids children, as they are able to remember a simple acronym that is often accompanied with a song and dance. “With sensitive topics, especially dealing with sexuality we use music, dance, and drama to make topics non threatening,” said Dr. Coutinho. Methods like ABC are teaching preventative measures in the 150 countries that PEPFAR is associated with. However, PEPFAR specifically focuses in 15 countries, which is where half of the world’s HIV/AIDS disease is: Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanada, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zambia.

And although results are occurring, “if PEPFAR hits the target, my estimate is that it will avert eight million orphans,” said Dr. Coutinho, there is still much to do. What can we do now? “What’s most important is your compassion,” said Dr. Coutinho who suggested raising money to send over soccer balls which helps children who are infected with HIV/AIDS to rise from the stigma of the disease and enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood. “We need more innovative approaches,” said Ambassador Dybul. “This isn’t just a medical problem, it affects every aspect of life.”

Lets hope Bush and company deliver on their promise. And, we need to take it upon ourselves to do more to help the more than 39 million people currently living with HIV worldwide.

I don’t believe those evil creatures anymore.

They tricked me with their wordgames, raising my hopes
And then destroying them.
-Translated version of Shakespeare's excerpt from Macbeth

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Go Dad!

According to Hands on Greater Portland:

Carlos Perez,
Individual Volunteer Award

As Washington County experiences unprecedented growth and change, Carlos Perez, Deputy Superintendent of Hillsboro Public Schools, is helping to ensure that this transition will result in unifying experiences for its residents. In response to an article released by the Oregonian in November of 2003 entitled “Experts: Findings On Latinos No Surprise: Experts say anti-Latino views expressed in a survey reflect Hillsboro’s growing diversity and economic stress”, Carlos formed “Hillsboro For All”, a group that included leaders from across the community (including the chief of police, CEO of the community hospital, and many others) in an effort to combat the potentially negative impact on the community’s Latino residents. As a board member of Vision Action Network, a catalyst for new initiatives that meet emerging community needs, Carlos also provides leadership for VAN’s Diversity and Human Rights initiative. During his tenure, Carlos has helped create the first-ever Human Rights Council of Washington County. He is currently serving as the Council’s initial chair.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Happy Earth Day!

Dread heads, deadheads, hippies, and more…Families, fairies, ganja galore, converged together to form an eclectic crowd, that San Francisco is synonymous for. Unlike 4/20, this time it was for a cause, as the Green Apple Music and Arts Festival hosted a celebration for Earth Day, April 22nd, in Golden Gate Park.

The second annual Green Apple Music and Arts Festival, presented by JP Morgan Chase, was held on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Speedway Meadows of Golden Gate Park. The festival, accommodated over 30 booths that included the San Francisco Green Party, Greenopia, a massage parlor, and a global mourning-global awakening area by Creative Community Catalysts, where artists work to inspire more ecologically sustainable and socially connected communities. The main attraction to the event, however, was the free musical line up that brought San Franciscans out in throngs, to hear Bob Weir and Rat Dog, Stephen and Damian “Jr Gong” Marley, The Greyboy Allstars, Martin Sexton, and Jonah Smith all in the name of mother earth. Earth Day, was created as a result of the conscious awakening by Rachel Carson’s bestselling novel, Silent Spring. Silent Spring, among other things, inspired United States Senator Gaylord Nelson, to speak out on a need for an environmental teach-in. Thus, Earth Day was created and began on April 22, 1970 with the participation of more than 20 million people. Today, the once grassroots rally, has turned into a celebration by more than 500 million people in 175 countries.

The Green Apple festival held in San Francisco was also held in New York and Chicago, and celebrated by 15,000 people in each city, said the MC for the event (event staff declined interview). For one of the 15,000 in attendance, Brandon Redman, a student at the University of San Francisco, Sunday turned into Funday as he described the celebration as “a well organized event that did a good job of bringing all different types of people together to celebrate Earth Day.” Emily Stetson, a young adult festival goer, said “I’ve never seen this at a festival before,” in response to the overwhelming large attendance as she waited for her garlic fries.

As bubbles and smoke hovered above the crowd, San Franciscans enjoyed free music and good food as the need for global environmental awareness grows stronger with every passing gas guzzling Hummer. Which begs the question, shouldn’t Earth Day be everyday?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In Remembrance

On Sunday, April 22nd, at 9:00 p.m. in Xavier Chapel/Fromm Hall, a special mass will be held for all affected by the tragedy at Virginia Tech.

USF will join numerous colleges in gathering books of prayers that will be sent to the Virginia Tech ecumenical/interfaith campus ministry group. These condolence books will be placed in Koret, the Outtakes Café on Lone Mountain, and the Market in University Center.

Surviving Reality Television

Dropped in the middle of nowhere. Secluded and scared you nervously scour this unknown territory for food and water. Overpowered by your stomach’s undying growl you result to eating bugs and drinking dirty water. All the while the scorching sun is beating upon your hot, tired, and neglected body. Bad dream? No, because a Pontiac Aztec SUV is just around the corner, and a million dollars is up for the taking. This is reality… or at least, reality television. Hotter than ever, reality television (like the overwhelming popular show Survivor) is creating cause for concern. As promotional plugs for reality shows consume their affiliated news program, as advertisements are no longer subliminal, and as the importance and visibility of the public sphere model continues to dissipate.

The public sphere model focuses on informing the public strictly on the issues, and allowing for the viewer to make their own informed opinion. The best example of this model is seen with Britain’s BBC. The United States, however, has adopted the commercial or business model, which is “based on attracting audiences to be ‘sold’ to advertisers,” explains John Sinclair, in his essay, Contemporary World Television. This approach along with other factors has lead to the creation of reality shows.

In Matthew McAllister’s essay, Selling Survivor, The Use of TV News to Promote Commercial Entertainment, he evaluates Survivor, a ‘backstabbing survival of the fittest’ show that bombards viewers with advertisements. An example of this is seen in an episode of Survivor. Before the show began, a commercial for the Pontiac Aztec SUV popped up on the screen as the shows sponsor, then a contestant won a challenge, his reward? A Pontiac Aztec. The contestant then continued to plug the “coolness” of the Aztec until commercial break, which just happened to be a commercial for the Aztec.

McAllister finds that this type of advertisement, which is becoming more prevalent in reality television, disheartening, “blatant blurring of commercial and program raises concerns about the control over programming decisions that may be relinquished to marketers and promoters.” McAllister finds the promotion of these content-less shows even more alarming, “the mixing of the commercial and the promotional with news programming is more problematic and has been an enduring concern in the field of media studies.” McAllister, then goes on to discuss the Early Show, the morning news program on CBS, which features the newest contestant to be kicked off from the Survivor the night before.

This mergence of lines between promotion, advertisement, and reality shows isn’t seen only on the CBS network. When it was wildly popular, the Apprentice contestants seemed to be guaranteed a spot on the morning news program, the Today Show, to let us in on the Donald and other juicy gossip that the American people just can’t seem to get enough of. McAllister believes that these shows, “represent many disturbing trends in modern commercial and promotional culture: the power of commercial sponsorship to influence content; the invasion of entertainment texts by product placement; the increased media life of promotional messages through the Internet and, the most significantly for this essay, the use of news to promote corporate holdings.”

The role that network news has taken to promote their television shows, or other products (ex. Oscar gowns for less by this brand…) takes the information out of the program and puts the commercial in. The American people who still watch the news should care that they are now learning less about political and social issues and more about how to “outwit and outlast” on Survivor. “Ultimately CBS’s use of news to publicize Survivor sets the promotional bar higher than it has been before for television news and paints one particularly disturbing picture of the role of news in commercial culture. Although this role may be beneficial to corporate owners and advertisers, it also undermines the needs of a democratic society,” said McAllister.

A Distracting Obsession

There is something taking over the lives of college students across the United States. It never sleeps, it never eats, and it’s often changing its appearance. Some might call it a monster, invading the land of Cyberspace and taking over helpless mouse pads. Others might say it has god like qualities, able to create anything and see everything. Others however, simply call it, Facebook.

Regardless of how you feel about, a popular social networking site, there is one common description that Facebook believers and objectors can agree upon, Facebook is a distraction. And since its creation in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook now has over 19 million registered users, spanning over 47,000 regional, work-relate, and collegiate and high school networks. One of which, is the University of San Francisco, where out of 264 students surveyed by a USF journalism 2 class, 42 percent said they log on to Facebook multiple times a day. Nearly 30 percent of those students, also admitted to logging on to Facebook during their valuable and pricey class time. Through an email exchange, Assistant Professor of Media Studies at USF, David Silver explained that a reason for the popularity of Facebook is because it is, “an example of customizable or personalized media,” said Silver.

Sophomore Amanda Niello, Media Studies Major, agrees with Silver and says, “Facebook is very distracting. I’ll be on the computer writing a paper and I will suddenly get the urge to see if there are any new pictures tagged of my friends from home or if I have gotten a new wall post about the past weekend.”

Regardless of whether you find yourself as a friend or foe to the overwhelming popular Facebook, which according to comScore, is the sixth-most trafficked site in the United States and is the number one photo-sharing site, it is undeniable that the social networking site serves as a both an obsession and distraction for countless college students across the country. “College students, like so many other contemporary Americans, love thinking about, talking about, and hearing about themselves,” said Silver. “This may explain the root of the obsession.”