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Mid-Term 2014 Elections and Media Coverage: Do Big Money and Corporations Rule Politics?

Rupert_Murdoch_-_Flickr_-_Eva_Rinaldi_Celebrity_and_Live_Music_PhotographerOn November 4, 2014, American citizens are going to re-elect their representatives in Congress, where all 435 seats at the House and 33 out of 100 seats at the Senate will be up for grabs. Currently Republican Party controls the US House; 232 Republican seats, 201 Democrat seats, 2 vacancies; and Democratic Party, 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans, and 2 Independents control the Senate. In the Senate, Republicans need to gain six seats to obtain majority; in the House, Democrats need to get that much desired 218th seat in order to gain control. Given current political climate in the country, the upcoming elections are of great importance.

It is not a secret that many American citizens are disillusioned by the course the government has taken: for example, 2013 annual job approval rate for Congress of 14 percent was the lowest since Gallup started taking the poll in 1974. Similarly, Obama’s job approval rate was only mere 40 percent in December 2013. Divided nature of Congress—where Republican Party controls the House and Democrats control the Senate—is often to blame for inefficacy of American government. Practically every initiative proposed by either party is met with opposition from its political counterpart. The situation clearly manifested itself in October 2013 when the government shutdown over Obamacare showed that both political parties are predominantly driven by their ideologies instead of constructive concern for the well being and progress of the whole country.

Consequently, the 2014 elections will be instrumental in ensuring that Congress, instead of being torn by bipartisan bickering, might at last become productive and effective. As such, it is imperative that American people vote and unequivocally tell their government what is expected of it. However, therein lays a big problem. Special interests, big money, and powerful corporations, thus effectively shutting down the voices of ordinary citizens, contaminate political campaigns in the USA. In January 2010, Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission has declared that corporate political spending does not affect political representatives and has given corporations, labor unions, and other influential groups the same rights as to individuals to spend their money on political campaigns, including TV commercials, print advertisement, and such. Now, the big companies have means to effectively buy political campaigns and elected officials in order to promote policies advantageous to their corporate interests.120629_kochs_adelson_trump_ap_605

Moreover, American media is highly consolidated. For example, today, six major companies (Comcast, Disney, News Corporation, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS) control most of the media in the USA, thus effectively managing what kind of information is available to people.  The same goes for cable, radio, and Internet, —which for all their seeming diversity—are in fact owned and controlled by just few large corporations. According to Common Cause Initiative, since 1990, the entertainment industry, including television, motion picture companies, music industry, etc., has put $283.5 million into federal elections. And in 2008-2010, about the same amount was spent by the industry on lobbying. In fact, Telecommunication Act of 1996, which lifted the limits of ownership, has had an opposite effect by allowing rich and powerful corporations to monopolize. As such, political ads, which run on TV, radio, and other media outlets, are often financed by big money and fail to provide unbiased views and diverse opinions.

It is of utmost importance to have access to true information regarding who, why, and how influences and finances political candidates and their campaigns. 2014 elections are fast approaching and American people need to act quickly.

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Water, Food, Energy and Our Future

Microsoft Word - Perfect Storm Scenario and Nexus Thinking

Our planet’s population is growing each year and is fast approaching eight billion mark. Our climate is changing due to carbon footprint, which influences all aspects of our lives. As such, widespread concern whether natural resources which supply water, food, and energy for people will be sufficient enough to provide all the necessary means for life is well-grounded and timely. In recent decades, many people—including scientists, researchers, and public figures—have voiced their worries regarding the future of our planet and insisted that we must develop new policies which would stress the necessity of sustainable growth and development.

The idea that natural resources will get scarce as population grows is not new.  One of the most famous people who brought it to everyone’s attention was the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), an English scholar, cleric, and author. In his seminal work An Essay on the Principle of Population, he argued that while population grew geometrically, food supply grew arithmetically; thus, in the future, food supply would not be able to keep up with people’s needs. His work, while provoking a lot of criticism, nevertheless initiated vigorous scholastic debate for years to come and gave rise to many works devoted to the subject of population growth and its economic consequences.

Food

In recent years, the concept of water-food-energy nexus introduces by Stockholm Environment Institute and supported by such renowned organizations as Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, International Food Policy Research Institute, Stockholm International Institute, World Business Council for Sustainable Development and others, steadily gained in popularity. To put it briefly, the nexus concept promotes integrated approach to securing water, food, and energy supplies across the globe. While it might seem that water, food, and energy belong to separate sectors, they are much more interconnected than previously imagined. As a result, the disturbance in one of the sectors will inevitably result in disturbances in the other two, which will lead to catastrophic consequences all over the world.

renewable, energy

As such, concerted efforts should be made in managing, developing, and governing various areas of water, food, and energy sectors by all world countries.Despite all the progress the humanity has achieved over the centuries, 550 million people in Asia and Pacific still do not have enough food; more than 600 million people in the world have no access to electricity; and about 55 percent of world population does not have access to clean and safe drinking water. At the same time, it is obvious that natural resources are not limitless and should be managed in a most efficient and productive manner, should not be overexploited, and should be sustainable. Consequently, water-food-energy nexus approach offers a wide variety of policies to achieve such an end. For example, these policies include an active promotion of green economy principles, increase of the productivity of various resources, use of waste as a resource in multi-use systems, integration of poverty alleviation and green growth, and stimulation of sustainable development through economic incentives.

Water Shortage

The need to build sustainable and green world economy is pressing. As such, people at all levels— be it individual, business, or country—must take steps to secure a future for our children.

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Nature vs. Nurture: Perennial Debate

physical traits of parentsWhen a person looks in the mirror, he or she can easily see some of the physical traits inherited from their parents or other relatives such as eye color, shape of one’s nose and mouth, skin color, hair color, and so on. However, when it comes to psychological traits and character, the answer is not so easily found. Why our personalities are as they are? What factors contribute to each person’s character being one-way and not another? For years, researchers have tried to determine whether person’s character, individuality, and special talents are mostly pre-determined by genes or shaped by the environment a person grows up in.

Perennial Debate

The proponents of “nature theory” (known as nativists) stipulate that their genes largely determine people’s innate characteristics, personality, and abilities. As such, each of us has predetermined IQ, special talents, or inclinations, be they bad or good. While environment can make some difference, genes play a much more important role in shaping one’s personality and capacities. On the other hand, supporters of “nurture theory” (known as behaviorists) argue that their environment mostly forms people’s characters. As such, they believe that each person is born as kind of a “blank slate,” (or “tabula rasa” as introduced by philosopher John Locke) which gets “filled up” by one’s experiences, environment, and social determinants. Consequently, the environment can determine whether a person will grow up to be a success, for example in academic or creative field, or a failure. However, most people agree that both nature and nurture play somewhat equally important role in shaping one character, abilities, and personality.

Perennial Debate - how environment effects people behaviorThe debate regarding what makes us what we are is a significant one. For example, if one considers the problem of addiction (such as addiction to alcohol, drugs, or gambling) from the point of nativist, then it is clear that the research should be directed towards discovering specific genes responsible for such behavior and, if possible, manipulating them in order to cure people from their addictions. However, when one believes that environment is mostly responsible for people’s behavior, then the effort should be directed at providing stable and nurturing environment where these types of addictions are actively discouraged and disapproved.

Lately, the debate regarding nature vs. nurture came into limelight due to the discussion whether there is a gene responsible for people being gay. Given the pressure gay people often find themselves under, it is indeed important to understand the mechanism of homosexuality and whether it’s predetermined by one’s genetic make-up or societal factors.

Nature vs Nurture 4The relative importance of both nature and nurture is best understood when one considers twins. Both fraternal and identical twins have many more similar innate characteristics than other types of siblings. Still, if one is a believer of “nature” theory, identical twins who are reared in the same environment and exposed to the same social norms and culture should be much more similar in their personalities than they usually are. At the same time, when twins are brought up in different families and even in different cultures, they still share many common traits and talents.

Obviously, both hereditary and social determinants play crucial roles in shaping one’s character, abilities, inclinations, and personality.

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