Archive for November, 2009


 

killing at the canal

killing at the canal

Doing the right thing is never easy. When emotions run high and people have their backs against the wall, they will do what they think is right. Unfortunately, three American soldiers who thought they did the right thing are being severely punished for their acts.

After six months of secrecy, a U.S. soldier Sgt. Michael P. Leahy confessed to the murders of four Iraqi detainees. An investigation ensued and led to the arrests of Master Sgt. John E. Hatley, Joseph P. Mayo including Leahy himself.  Hartson was one of the soldiers under Hatley’s squad but was not arrested because he was only a witness.

In March 2007, Sgt. John Hatley led his squad in his third combat deployment mission in Iraq. During their patrol, Hatley’s squad were under fire. They searched and detained four Iraqi suspects with a weapon stash nearby, according to CNN.

“There were sniper rifles, light machine guns, AK-47s, night vision goggles and duffel bags full of ammunition,” former Private First Class Joshua Hartson said.

 After arresting the Iraqi prisoners of war. The U.S. Army required that the soldiers deport the prisoners to the Detainee Housing Area (DHA), which is standard and strict policy of the American army. In addition to that, the DHA said Hatley and his squad had no direct evidence between the Iraqis and the weapons and would have to release them. However, Hatley, Mayo and Leahy took the prisoners to a canal. They blindfolded them, zip-tied their hands and shot the prisoners execution style.

“Like, my arm went up to the right, and I fired again. I’m pretty sure I didn’t hit anybody, but I’m not gonna say that because I don’t know for sure. I wasn’t even looking when I shot the second time. My arm just went to the right.” Leahy said.

There were inconsistencies with his story. He later admitted that his bullet struck the second detainee, but said Hatley fired two more shots that killed the man, according to CNN.

The arrests of these three men has been the one of the most unfortunate events for the U.S. Army. It has brought them nothing but bad PR. The media feeds off the controversy and society has mixed thoughts on the soldiers’ actions. The soldiers have been labeled as either cold-blooded murderers or American heroes.

Personally, the thought of letting terrorists back onto the streets after being detained must have hit the soldiers hard. Thus killing them was the only viable option. They did it to protect their friends and keep their fellow soldiers safe. They had justified motives. However, those justified motives became their own downfall.

 Personally, I think this is the war taking its toll on people who are naturally good at heart. There is no doubt that emotions were running high and that the three soldiers got caught up in the moment. It is hard to point fingers at them and call them murderers. But such an unfortunate event scrutinizing the U.S. Army today could have been avoided.

Hatley and the rest of the squad might have done the right thing but in the context of legalism and standard procedure, they are criminals. Keep in mind that they are not ultimately being punished for shooting detained prisoners or supposed terrorists but are being punished for overriding DHA policy.

It is a classic case of revenge, people taking matters into their own hands and acting out in a way which we think serve us best. We are still subject to punishment from an authority somehow.

The three culprits were convicted premeditated murder and conspiracy in a military courtroom in Germany. Hatley and Mayo both faced 35 years at military prison Fort Leavenworth. Leahy received 20 years after plea bargaining.

Modern Warfare 2
Modern Warfare 2

 Video games are only for kids.  Like addictive drugs, they only dull the mind, destroy lives and are a complete waste of time. Well these days that is not entirely true. The development of video games since the 70s have come a long way. The video game is currently a multi-billion dollar industry, heavily competing alongside with the movie/film industry and has expanded to all age groups. If time is moderately spent on video games, they can provide an enjoyable escape no different than reading a novel or watching a cinematic film.

 However, video games have faced a tireless wave of discrimination and smug ever since their inception. Especially the adult-intended games that have been slapped with ridiculous bans and bombarded with complaints from angry parents and congressmen because there is a “direct link” between violent video games and children.

 Yes it is true some games contain inappropriate content such as strong violence, sexual images, use of drugs and vulgar language. But that is why there are rating systems such as the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) in the States. The ESRB fully equips parents with the power to educate themselves on various kinds of video game content and the ability to proactively decide which games are or not suitable for their children.

 The media also contributes to the unfair lookdown of video games. They purposefully take some parts of a video game out of context for sensational headlines and provide one sided views.

The highly anticipated military first-person-shooter (FPS), Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) had been released in November. However, one of the missions in the game sparked some major controversy with the media because it involved a terrorist attack in an airport. Of course, headlines from several news outlets would read:

“Outrage as new video game lets players kill civilians in terror attacks! Modern Warfare 2 accused of promoting terrorism! New game lets players massacre civilians!”

The one-sidedness does not stop there. Several news outlets keep failing to get the facts straight.

 “In one of the missions, players can join a group of Russian ultranationalist terrorists and massacre civilians with assault weapons in an airport. A scene from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The mission effectively simulates a terrorist attack from a first-person view,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

 An opinion show called “Fox and Friends” from Fox News hosted Founder of Slash Gamer Jon Christensen and CEO of Common Sense Media Jim Steyer on a debate/report on MW2 that was far from accurate.

 “You essentially get to be a terrorist and kill people and it’s very realistic,” The Fox host said.

Wrong. The player is not a terrorist. The player actually takes on the role of an undercover agent trying to infiltrate a group of Russian terrorists but the player does participate in the attack as he or she watches the terrorists slowly walk through an airport and fire at large groups of innocent, unarmed people with assault rifles and grenade launchers. Some of the defenseless victims crawl to safety while they bleed to death, others drag the injured away from gunfire and cry in fear.

 The scene is graphic and horrific. Even those with thick skin would feel a chill run down their spine. Regardless, that is the shocking realism and effect of terrorism that the game is trying to create and is an essential part of MW2’s storyline.

 “We push the story. We want the player to be emotionally attached. We want them to be emotionally shocked,” according to head of Infinity Ward game developer Vince Zampella.

Infinity Ward warns gamers that the scene may be disturbing and they can choose not to play through the part. Infinity Ward does not advocate terrorism in anyway and honored U.S. troops on Veteran’s Day after the game’s release.

 It is no doubt video games strive to get more realistic each day and that some game content is intended for more mature audiences only, hence MW2 is labeled Mature (M) by the ESRB and intended for players of ages 17 and over.

 In addition to that, it is unfair a military video game like MW2 should be bashed by the media for trying to present and confront the issues of terrorism.

Novels, movies, and TV shows like 24 have trenched on similar ground but never get on hot seat. So what is so different about a video game that implements storytelling and a creative drive in its gameplay?

 Overall, video games have constantly achieved the level of realism and technology they aspire to for over the past 30 years. But they will not achieve the acceptance other forms of media entertainment enjoy today.

iPhone

iPhone

Technology is constantly changing. It has enhanced most electronic devices that are a part of the average American household today. An evident example includes how television evolved from monochrome to color to the nearly mainstream HDTV. Overall, communication keeps changing and becomes more accessible because of technology.

What is most impressive out of all these transitions is the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell’s invention has been one of the most successful advances in communication. He was aware of its huge impact that it would have in America. But it is safe to say he had no idea how far the use of the phone would come and cement itself in the lives of so many people. The telephone has now reached various forms including the home phone and cell phones.

Seriously, the thought of not having a cell phone is unthinkable. Cell phones have also evolved to a new generation of sleek-looking, multi-tasking and touch-screen devices known as smartphones. Smartphones have applications (apps). Programs capable of e-mail, video, alerts, and GPS. Like HDTVs, smartphones are also on the verge of becoming mainstream.

“Touch-screen phone adoption grew by 159 percent between August 2008 and August 2009. The firm also found that by the end of August 2009, there were 23.8 million users with touch-screen mobile phones in the United States alone. In August 2008, just over 9.2 million people were using touch-screen phones,” according to ComScore.

Popular smartphones include the BlackBerry Strom, LG Voyager and Palm Treo. However, these smartphones are no match for the dominant iPhone.

“Unsurprisingly, it was the iPhone that led the way during that period. the iPhone was the top touch-screen device for users aged 13 and older, capturing 32.9 percent of the touch-screen market. The LG Dare placed a distant second, accounting for 8.7 percent of the touch-screen phones in the wild. That device was followed up by the LG Voyager, BlackBerry Storm, and Palm Treo, which captured 7.8 percent, 7 percent, and 6.5 percent of the market, respectively,” according to CNET News.

Of course the iPhone is the leading smartphone this year and has been the most sought after smartphone ever since its debut in 2007. The iPhone is notoriously known for having an unlimited number of apps. There is an app for almost anything.

“Apple’s App Store is now serving over 100,000 downloadable iPhone apps. iPhone owners worldwide have downloaded over 2 billion apps to date,” according to Apple.

Need to convince your boss that you are working while you are actually sleeping? There is an app that makes the random sounds of rustling papers and typing on the keyboard. Trying to hit on that girl you are interested in? There is an app that generates pick up lines that will have her falling for you. Are you a germaphobe? There is an app that simulates a virtual hand on the iPhone that you can use touch to faucets, door knobs and shake people’s hands. Forgot to turn in your homework? There’s an app that give you excuses such as being abducted by aliens that you could use on your professor

Some of these apps are really dumb but they are still a lot of fun as they are always in demand. Sometimes, apps alone are the sole reason people want to purchase smartphones. Who could blame them? Smartphones are cool and are naturally a big hit with the younger crowd.

  “51 percent of smartphone users are under the age of 35. A whopping 58 percent of touch-screen users fall within that age range. 21 percent of touch-screen users range in age between 18 and 24. Less than 5 percent of touch-screen users are 65 and older,” according to ComScore.

As a result, other phone companies, like Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Motorola have been trying to make their own version of smartphones with apps. It is good most companies are following the same trend but in actuality it is a losing battle as the iPhone remains number one in development of apps.

Even though smartphones are a great advancement in technology and taking over the standard cell phone, they still have their problems as they are expensive, have expensive service charges and are 50 percent more likely to have problems and fail than regular cell phones. Still it is hardly a dent in the transition of smartphones and technology itself.