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By Andrew Bennett

You can hear it anywhere from presidential debates to small-talk conversations. You may have even heard someone respond to “what’s up” with the clever remark “gas prices.” Gas prices are manifested 24 hours a day on the tall signs outside of stations, there are iPhone apps that will tell you where to find the cheapest gas prices, and many American citizens would change their presidential vote simply based on what a candidate claims they will do to the gas prices. More than any other commodity, Gasoline has nearly every driving-age American obsessing over its prices and the feeling among consumers is almost unanimous and rather obvious: lower prices are better.

Well I’m here to tell you that they’re all wrong; higher gas prices are better. As an American citizen who drives more than 10,000 miles every year, I want to save money on gas just as much as anybody else, but I have come to realize that there may be many benefits to gas prices being higher. There are numerous reasons why Obama should be making efforts to increase the price of gasoline, including climate change, technology innovation, and dependence on foreign countries. The benefits of increased gas prices on the environment are obvious: if gas prices were higher, people would drive less or drive more efficient vehicles, and there would be less carbon emitted in America. Higher gasoline prices would also push auto manufactures to build vehicles that utilize alternative forms of energy, such as electricity or hydrogen fuel cell technology.  This does not just mean more Smart Cars and Toyota Priuses on the road; it also means more high-tech super cars like the Audi R8 E-Tron, the BMW i8, and the Fisker Karma. These innovations would boost the economy and continue to lead to a better environmental situation.

One of the biggest benefits of higher gas prices would be a decreased dependence on foreign countries. Not only would Americans demand less oil, but as one writer points out, higher gas prices would lead to increased oil drilling in America. Oil companies will only begin drilling in America if prices are high, otherwise their money spent on new drilling equipment, obtaining land, new oil refineries, etc. would not be a profitable investment.

One of the main reasons why the government may be subsidizing oil prices so much is to simply keep the citizens happy. As with many political issues in America, we find politicians often making decisions based on what will keep them in office, rather than what is truly best for America. Many citizens drive cars that run solely on gasoline power and they don’t want to pay more for gas. If gas prices were to increase in the long term, however, there would be an influx of new technologies to replace consumers’ dependence on gasoline and it would likely be even more inexpensive for consumers.

While higher gas prices may have some adverse implications in the short term, it seems extremely clear that it would lead to a more sustainable economic structure for America in the long term. With so many clear-cut benefits of increased gas prices, it really begs the question: is it really worth it for the government to keep prices low?

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After months of intense practice and aching muscles the final competition has arrived. Sixteen of us sit shoulder to shoulder in the locker room preparing to step out onto the ice. Once everyone has pulled their laces tight, applied their lipstick, and gone through their final stretches we walk out towards the rink entrance. Everyone can feel the nerves and the excitement when we head toward the rink; girls shake their legs out, calm their breathing, and go through numerous traditions that they have. As the announcer says the team’s name we step out onto the ice ready to perform to a packed audience. “Ready, and”, the team captain yells as the team hits their beginning pose. In the next thirty seconds theirs just enough time to take a breath before the music is played and the performance starts. Over the next four minutes movements are completed in unison and a story of the program is told. Shockingly the skate is over, the crowd is on their feet cheering, and the all the handwork was worth it.

Exact precision and an emotional performance are only two of the challenges that a synchronized ice skater faces when stepping out onto the ice surface. Full of nerves and thoughts concerning the required elements sixteen individuals face an audience of judgment, while performing a routine that they have been working on for several months. Just like any other sport a synchronized skater must face the same pressures of working with others, extensive practices, and stressful competition. Synchronized skating has dealt with just as many challenges as another sport, showing that its athletes deserve a chance to compete in the Olympics.

Since the first U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships was held in 1984 the sport has grown tremendously in size. Today there are over 525 synchronized skating teams registered in the United States alone. Each year the sports participation increases throughout the world. Along with the tremendous number of teams in the United States the international participation of the sport is becoming steadily larger as well. There are currently over twenty different teams from fifteen countries that participate in the World Championships.

Expectedly, there are requirements that the sport needs to meet in order to become an Olympic sport. For example the sport needs to be practiced in fifty different countries. As mentioned previously there are currently twenty different counties participating in competition. Seemingly that is the most obvious reason to which the sport should not be included within the Olympics, but this requirement should not rule synchronized skating out quite yet. The requirement simply states that fifty counties must practice the sport, not that fifty must compete the sport internationally. Widening the scope to simply practicing the sport makes it much more plausible for synchronized skating to be included in the Olympics. Also, synchronized skating is a winter sport meaning that some requirements are not as strict because there are not as many counties that can participate in winter events.

Another, few requirements to which synchronized skating fits is that the sport must have an International Federation and that there needs to be a World Championship held.  Throughout the season a number of international competitions are held in which five to twenty different counties participate and all of these competitions would not be there if they was not an International Federation to govern and organize the sport. World Championships for synchronized skating have been held since 2000 when they were hosted in Minneapolis. Since then they have been held every year traveling from country to country. The United States has hosted the competition three times, Finland has hosted twice and then ten other countries have hosted or are going to host in the upcoming years.

Overall, synchronized skating fits the requirements that are needed in order for a sport to become an Olympic event. The athletes involved in the sport now dedicate much of their lives and time to the sport. Imagine how much grander and competitive the sport would become if these young athletes could work towards something as rewarding as becoming an Olympian.

Mike Mulcrone

Joel Armstrong

English 1050

19 February 2013

 

How is Dangerous Texting and Driving?

 

            There is a new epidemic out there that kills over sixteen thousand drivers a year.  Many teenagers are at fault when it comes to texting and driving, but are not to receive the blame entirely.  As much as forty-eight percent of young drivers have witnessed an adult use a phone while driving.  A driver who is texting is twenty-three times more likely to get into a car accident than that of a non-texting driver.  The minimal time it takes to read a text message is five seconds, if you are traveling at an average speed of fifty-five miles per hour this equals driving the length of a football field without looking.  What is even worse is that teens who text and drive spend ten percent of their driving time out of their lane.  The big question is why do people take the chance and why can’t it wait?

            Year after year the number of accidents that result from texting while driving increases.  In 2011, twenty-three percent of car accidents involved cellphones.  That is 1.3 million accidents.  Families have been broken apart due to simple texts that take their loved ones eyes off of the road.  It is said drinking and driving is dangerous because your vision is impaired, slows brain function, and makes you tired.  Well when a person is texting while driving they are taking their eyes off the road for a whole five to six seconds to read a message.  There are also teens that try and justify texting and driving to make it seem safer when outcome is the same.  Teens use the excuse of only texting while at a traffic light, only reading texts instead of sending them, and holding the phone out closer to the windshield.  These alternatives are still risky and do not make texting safer.  Before drivers look down to read a text message they should ask themselves if that text message is worth risking their life and potentially the life of somebody else. 

            While people are beginning to see how dangerous texting and driving really is movements have started to stop it.  Such laws have come into effect making it illegal to text and drive.  So far ten states have prohibited the use of hand held phones all together.  Thirty-two states prohibit new drivers from the use of cellphones all together. While there are thirty-nine states that have made it law to prohibit drivers from texting.  While the government is doing its part to put a stop to texting and driving parents now have a say with the help of technology.  Driving cams can now be installed so parents can monitor their children while they drive to a destination.  Also cellular networks are helping out parent with parental controls that keep kids from sending and receiving texts for a certain period of time that, that teen would be driving.  It is called AT&T Drive Mode that is the anti-texting and driving app available for smartphones.  There is one last approach that seems to have been beneficial for families.  Parents have put in their full trust in their children by having them sign a text free driving pledge where the teen and parent sign a contract where the teen agrees to practice safe text-free driving.

By Hannah Malone

Gun control is a tricky topic.  It sort of falls under that category much like religion and abortion and politics do.  Both parties have a lot of good points and maybe even a lot of bad ones, but no matter how much people argue over either side, there’s no clear winner.   Topics like this come down solely to individuals’ personal beliefs.  Some might think it’s a violation of our “constitutional right” to put restrictions on the weapons we can own.  Other people believe the opportunity to own guns is dangerous and more restrictions have to be made.

Then there are people like me.  I fall sort of on the borderline between the two groups.  I’ve been hunting myself and have enjoyed it thoroughly.  My father is a responsible gun owner and it’s nice to have the luxury of owning multiple guns for both protection and for recreational uses. I have many great memories of my father bringing me out to camp when I was younger to go hunting with him.  He taught me how to safely handle a gun, and I even practiced shooting with clay pigeons.  It’s something I’ve always enjoyed and will always have wonderful memories about.  But as much as I loved being able to go out for a weekend and hunt birds with my father, what’s more important to me is my safety and those of the ones I love.

Sure, a lot of parents out there might be just like my father.  They can properly teach children how to handle a gun, or to not touch a gun at all.  And that’s all and well, but when it comes down to it, kids may not listen, or later in life, people can take that knowledge of how to use a gun and use it for a terrible reason.  It’s not necessarily the parents’ fault, and a lot of people bring up the point that it’s not the gun, but the person.  A lot of people on the side of freedom to own guns offer a solution to “only sell guns to the mentally sane” – people that can pass mental health checks for example.

To that, I offer the fact that many people convicted of mass shootings did not own guns themselves but rather acquired them through relatives and other methods.  A perfect example of this is the Sandy Hook shooting in which the alleged shooter, Adam Lanza, obtained his weapons indirectly through his parents.  The weapons Adam Lanza used were registered under his mother and father’s names.  According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice from 1992-1998 the percentage of federal inmates who obtained firearms through family members and friends was significantly higher, at 35%, than that of the percentage that obtained firearms through retail stores, 15%.

These statistics alone are quite frightening.  What sickens me is the fact that more people have died over several months and a few years due to accidental and purposeful gun injuries than American soldiers in major historical wars.  I love my country just as much as the next American.  I care about myself as well as my family and even others that I haven’t met yet nor will ever meet in my lifetime.   I simply want the best for our country.  I realize banning guns in the United States is just about as realistic as banning hard drugs is.  It will never happen.  But for the sake of my loved ones, and my fellow Americans’ loved ones, even one small step making the tiniest bit of progress is better than no progress at all.   That is the reason why I propose a tightening on gun control and the process of obtaining guns.  Because like my mother has always said and what I will continue in saying, “better safe than sorry.”

Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech and Newtown. These are just some places where shootings have occurred in America over the last 5 years. And what has been done about it you may ask? Following the Virginia Tech massacre a law was passed stopping criminals and the mentally ill from being able to purchase guns. The Tucson shooting resulted in a ban of carrying fire arms within one thousand feet of certain federal officials along with sale of high ammunition magazines to civilians. Following the recent massacre in Newtown, Obama has proposed to tighten gun control law which includes background checks and limiting ammunition magazines to a 10-round capacity. Things have been done following these shootings and no one is denying that. Each time there is a massacre however it reminds us that we are not doing enough. Also, why does it take a major shooting for this issue to be seriously looked at? Why do these law changes have to follow the loss of innocent civilians, often young children?

Some people may state that it is too big a job to simply ban all guns. I agree, looking to get rid of all guns in the USA is simply an unrealistic goal. But I believe something has to be done. In New Zealand where I am from, I know that obtaining a gun is a lot harder than here. You require a gun licence to purchase a gun. The licence processes is a long and comprehensive one, where you have to sit a test to show that you know all the precautionary actions and know how to handle and look after guns. An officer then pays a visit to your house, asking questions to your family and making sure you have a safe place to store the gun. I realise that the two countries are different but surely something can be taken from this. Maybe a good start is something as small as an hour long safety course being required when purchasing a gun. This I think could be a great solution. Those that seriously want a gun, for hunting and other purposes would not mind having to do this class. It will also get rid of the sorts of idiots that want a gun for unreasonable purposes as the majority of them will just not bother.

They are having a similar problem in China however with knives instead of guns. Just recently in December 2012 a man went on a stabbing rampage at a school in Chenping China, injuring 22 school children. How does this relate to our topic of guns? Although there are very few shootings in China there knifing cases have gone through the roof. This presents the argument that maybe guns are not the underlying problem in America. If we get rid of guns then people will just turn to a new form of weapon such as knives. Maybe it is not the guns that are the problem, but rather the people.

One thought I want to bring to your attention is why now are we are putting so much thought into gun control. The reason is that the recent massacre in Newtown has brought up this continuously debated topic. The issue is made huge by the media, will we do something about gun control, wont we? The thing is gun control isn’t a new topic, it has been debated and contested for years. There is no quick fix to this problem, it will be a long process to making it more gun safe In the US but I think with small steps it is obtainable. I don’t think it is good enough to simply say the job is too big let’s do nothing. I want to finish by asking you this. When the next massacre comes around (and it will) will we as a nation feel that we have done enough, the best that we could to prevent these events from happening?

                As I walk into my church, several girls and boys sit in their seats quietly. Why? Because their time is occupied by some handheld game. I’ve walked into a room before and seem multiple children with forms of technology in their hands. However, they can’t talk. This 4-year-old can effectively master its way through a game of “Where’s my Water” but can’t recite their alphabet to me. I see that as a gigantic problem. As a society we have become so dependent on technology that if all technology stopped working now we wouldn’t be able to function properly. I’m not saying that all technology is bad and that the technological advancements that this country has made in the last hundreds of years weren’t beneficial. But I do believe that as a result we have deprived our younger generations of the things they truly need.
We use technology for everything. Now it doesn’t even take using more than one device, you can have a cell phone that you can call, text, play games, and send emails and so much more. On just one device. So what happens when you have like 3 devices? More now than ever children own all kind of electronics. Kids wake up and the first thing they do is grab their cell phone, or iPod. It sometimes gets so bad that the parents even get tired of it. Instead of giving a kid a book to read, they hand over a phone and say “sit and be quiet”. Kids know that if they make enough noise then they’ll get a game to play. The children at my church do this all the time. Instead of interacting in service, they sit and play games. So when they ask to play on my phone and devices I say no sometimes. Instead lets go downstairs and dance or play games. Electronics have become a mean of getting your kid to be invisible for a moment, which in turn causes them to become dependent on them. For example I cannot walk into a math class without a calculator, I would be completely lost. How is it that mathematicians were able to create and solve such complex problems in the past without a calculator? That befuddles me. If they were able to do it decades ago, we should be able to do it now. But instead of being taught basic principles we are taught how to use a calculator. I’m not saying that everyone who uses a calculator is dumb but I think that it’s because of technology that the US is behind China in academics. An A- in China is like an F. Of course there are other variables that contribute to this but I truly believe that electronics are a main contributor. In some instance people will say that technology is helping society rather than hurting. But I think it puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to things like standardized test.
I agree that social networks, apps, and internet all have their share of separate purposes. I know for events at my church we post flyers on Facebook, Twitter and sometimes Instagram, and that’s suitable. But would it be more effective to hand out fliers in person? I just believe that technology is making us lazy. In other parts of the world they may disagree…In Latvia some youth used the internet to get an “e-petition” signed. Why couldn’t these kids stand outside of buildings and get signatures like regular people? It was out of laziness. Technology is the easier way to go about things. It doesn’t involve much activity to get on a computer, but getting up and driving to the library is excess work we don’t feel like doing. As a generation I have to say that we have become very lazy because of technology. I would rather type a paper than hand write it. I’d rather “Google” something than go to the library and find it inside of a book. A lot of kids can’t even tell you how to find information inside an encyclopedia anymore because they have conformed to the internet, what happens when the electricity goes out? Considering that there is a possibility of a solar flare in May of 2013 this could actually happen. Solar flares interfere with electricity. As a nation would we be able to tap into our survival skills for the day?

Chris Zaczek

02/18/2013

English 1050

More skate parks less vandalism

                Skate parks are benefiters to everyone and not just skateboarders. If there were not skate parks we would skate anything we think is skate able even if it is in a business area. We will also skate on your benches sometimes and they will get destroyed. So Skateboarders need skate parks if we don’t have them where else can we skate. A lot of those skate parks that are made need to be free so skateboarders can skate only because not everyone has money.

                Skateboarders need to have skate parks. I say this because where then do you think we will skate. As our talents progress at skateboarding you find that you get bored just skating in front of your house with nothing to really skate. For example, how many people have stairs at their house that they can skate, what about gaps which is to parts of something like 2 ramps separated by feet, grass, rocks, anything really, also what about rails it’s hard to find things to grind on with you skateboard around your house. So we start to use our mind and it never turns off once you start looking for spots that you can skate you start to do it everywhere then you find yourself always analyzing everything. Once you find something you just get so much motivation to skate it that you don’t care where it is like if it is a business a random abandoned place just anything it really does not matter because you won’t care all you want it to skate that spot so you do. Eventually yes you will get in trouble for where you are skating because yes people don’t appreciate it if you skate where they are trying to get money our if it’s just something they bought and will never be used because people don’t like their stuff trashed. When I say trashed yes I mean it because when we skate benches we put wax on it then we grind it with or metal trucks so the bench well start to collect marks and maybe break off. Before the skate park in downtown Kalamazoo was made I remember that I used to skate everywhere downtown I also used to get kicked out of all the places I skated to. Like for example at the museum downtown there are benches to grind and people always walking everywhere. So once the people in the museum see you skating there stuff they will get mad and come yell at you and tell you to leave or that you could hurt yourself our someone around you. Also places are always worried because they think that you will sue them because you got hurt on their grounds. But the thing is when we get hurt we have NO intention of suing the place we know it’s our fault if we get hurt all we want to do is to just skate that spot and get our tricks down. So it really makes me mad when I get a few tries in and I’m about to get my trick and someone comes out screaming about you can’t skate here if you get hurt then your parents or you will sue us.

                When skate parks are made they need to be made in the intention of being free and not paid for us to skate. As a skater we spend enough money on decks, trucks, wheel, bearing, raiser, and shoes all those things really add up. Like a whole skateboard varies from 100 to 300 dollars. Shoes are also expensive they can range from 30 to 80 dollars.            So after we spend all that money we really don’t have more to spend so it would just be nice if the skate parks would be free to skate. Or where will we go skate that’s right your business place. Like for example kzoo skate zoo you have to pay 11 dollars every time to get in to skate for a few hours if you go when they open at 3 and they close at 9 you pay 11 dollars to skate for one day and its only for 6 hours. So to me that is a big rip off and there is no way to buy a year pass so you can skate for free because the business won’t let it happen. The thing is though they are getting less business because it is so expensive they used to have shoes you can buy but from less business they had to get rid of it. Also when you skate it you only skate it a few times before you get bored of it especially because you have to pay every time to go and skate it.