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    News Round-Up: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

    A Philadelphia high school drug ring is busted; violence escalates in South Sudan; and a man dealing fake art is arrested. Meanwhile, Lupita Nyong’o is named “Most Beautiful”; Drew Barrymore has her second child; and Justin Bieber gets in trouble for a seemingly honest mistake.

    - Veronica + Maura

    CRUCIAL

    Drug ring targeting top suburban Philly schools busted: http://rtvote.com/1lEO7Jd
    18-year-old Timothy Brooks and 25-year-old Neil Scott were caught Tuesday by the police along with eight other people. The business: selling drugs to students at some of the best high schools and colleges in the area. Brooks and Scott were the two at the center of the drug ring; Brooks supervised the eight “sub-dealers” who sold the drugs at school while Scott was in charge of shipping the drugs from California to Pennsylvania. The drug ring, allegedly dubbed the “Main Line Take-Over Project” (after affluent towns near Philadelphia, where the ring targeted), was responsible for selling marijuana, hash oil, cocaine, and ecstasy (or MDMA). The schools targeted included the Haverford School, Conestoga High School, Radnor High School, Harriton High School, and Lower Merion High School: all prestigious, wealthy schools with some of the highest standardized test scores in Pennsylvania.

    UN: South Sudan rebels separate residents by ethnicity, kill hundreds: http://rtvote.com/1iL2dsZ
    Rebels stormed the oil town Bentiu last week in South Sudan, separated the terrified citizens by ethnicity, and then killed at least 400 people. 200 were killed and 400 were wounded at one mosque alone. The attackers warned certain ethnic groups to leave town and that they should no longer stay in Bentiu. Men, women, and children were killed when they did not cheer and offer support for the rebel attackers. The conflict stems from an overarching power struggle between two South Sudanese ethnic groups: the Nuers and the Dinkas. The rebel leader, Riek Machar (Nuer) was accused by the existing President, Salva Kiir (Dinka), of trying to kick him out of power through a coup. Since the coup allegations, violence between military and civilians has dominated the nation.

    Indicted art dealer, painter were ‘masters of forgery and deceit’: http://rtvote.com/1tCgv3Y
    Jose Carlos Bergatiños Diaz, his brother, and other associates are accused of making $30 million by selling fake artwork for almost 20 years. Diaz and his associates convinced wealthy people and New York art galleries that he was selling real Rothkos and Pollocks paintings. In reality, the paintings sold were made by Pei Shen Qian, a Chinese painter found by Diaz on the Manhattan streets. The brothers were arrested in Spain and have been charged with conspiracy and money laundering. Qian, who authorities believe fled to China as the scheme began to fall apart, has been charged with lying to FBI agents and other conspiracy charges.

    Gun checks miss millions of fugitives: http://rtvote.com/1l1QiYH
    Law enforcement agencies who fail to provide the FBI and national fugitive databases with information on felons could enable those felons to access, purchase, and use guns. In 5 states alone, police forces failed to give the FBI information on more than 2.5 million people with arrest warrants. A large number of those unreported people are wanted for violent offences.  A possible reason for the lack of reporting is that most states do not want to spend the money to track fugitives across state lines. Most agencies therefore see no reason to report with the FBI (a national tracking database) because they have no intention of tracking the fugitives who have left the state.

    CULTURAL

    Lupita Nyong’o named People’s “Most Beautiful”: http://rtvote.com/Qy51zv

    Daniel Franzese (Damian from Mean Girls) comes out: http://rtvote.com/Ptxcym

    Drew Barrymore has her baby! Find out her adorable name! http://rtvote.com/1noPuQa

    Rehearsals for Pitch Perfect 2 have begun! http://rtvote.com/1hj8yvl

    Justin Bieber in hot water again- although this might have been an honest mistake: http://rtvote.com/1jB3QGv

    Veronica Barger
    Bio: Veronica is currently studying communications, law, economics, and government at American University in Washington, DC. Originally from New Jersey, she has held an interest in politics since the 2008 presidential election. Being a newly registered voter, she understands how important it is for young people to register to vote and have their voices heard. She looks to spread that message with Rock the Vote.

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com



    News Round-Up: Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

    A shipwreck in South Korea leaves nearly 300 missing; a large al Qaeda meeting video surfaces and unsettles United States intelligence; a cold case has been solved after over 40 years; and two backpacks wreak havoc at the Boston Marathon Commemorative Ceremonies. Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus lands in the hospital; Paul Walker’s brothers will help finish filming Fast & Furious 7; and Pharrell shares a “Happy” moment with Oprah despite some tears.

    - Veronica + Maura

     CRUCIAL

    Rescuers search dark, cold sea for survivors of shipwreck off South Korea: http://rtvote.com/1t9Riha
    300 people are still missing after a ferry, charged with taking passengers to a South Korean resort, capsized and sank Wednesday. Rescue teams are still searching the Yellow Sea for potential survivors. Out of the 459 people on board, four people (three men and one woman) are known to be dead and 164 have been rescued. Most of the passengers were students and teachers from a high school in Seoul, who were on a four-day field trip to an island resort nearby. A loud bang was heard before the ship began to rapidly take on water. The crew told the passengers to put on lifejackets and jump into the ocean. Some survivors said they tried to help people get out, but were not able to in time. The cause of the accident remains a mystery.

    Unsettling video shows large al Qaeda meeting in Yemen: http://rtvote.com/1qJdDjo
    A video deemed authentic by the US government shows what has been considered the largest gathering of al Qaeda militants in years. What’s more, either the CIA or the Pentagon did not know the gathering was occurring or they could not get a drone there in time. US officials have yet to comment on their lack of action, but the video is being heavily analyzed by US intelligence. Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the group’s second in command leader worldwide, is depicted to be standing in the open greeting followers, completely unconcerned that he could be hit by a drone strike. He said in his speech: “We must eliminate the cross…. The bearer of the cross is America.” Experts say there is cause for worry, stating that the recent video means that a new round of plotting is at hand. The al Qaeda group in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is the most dangerous sect of the terrorist organization.

    Case of missing South Dakota girls solved after 40 years: http://rtvote.com/1mcP4th
    Pamela Jackson and Cheryl Miller were on their way to a party in 1971 when they mysteriously disappeared without a trace. Authorities originally believed it was homicide, but were forced to drop the charges against the accused man due to false evidence. Since then, the case was considered a cold case. Last September, a car was found in a creek near the girls’ destinations. Inside were skeletal remains found in the cab of the car and Miller’s driver’s license, as well as personal items like notes and photographs. DNA analysis of the remains confirmed the identities of Jackson and Miller. There was no sign of alcohol, the keys were in the car’s ignition, the car was in gear, and a tire was damaged. 40 years later, the police are finally able to provide the families with a definitive answer: the girls’ deaths were an accident.

    Man with ‘hoax device’ frays nerves at Boston Marathon site: http://rtvote.com/1gANfSa
    Commemorative ceremonies for the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing had just ended when police found two backpacks and a suspicious person, forcing them to evacuate the area. The man was lurking with a backpack near the Boylston Street finish line and was “acting peculiarly”. The Boston Police Department called in the bomb squad and blew up both backpacks as a precaution. Police also arrested the man, the owner of only one of the bags, who said the bag contained a rice cooker. The contents of the other bag are unknown. The man was arrested and charged with possession of a hoax device, disturbing the peace, and disorderly conduct.

    Casual marijuana use linked to brain changes: http://rtvote.com/Qpuue1
    A study published in a neuroscience journal found that recreation marijuana use (as in, using a few times a week) is “enough to physically alter crucial brain structures”. Since there is little research on the effects of casual marijuana smoking, this study shed some light on the subject. Hans Breiter, the leader of the study, analyzed the brains of 20 light marijuana users and 20 nonsmokers. The brains of the smokers began to change in two major areas- the areas linked with emotion, motivation, and mental illnesses. The study parallels with the study of Staci Gruber, who focused on a batch of heavier marijuana smokers but found similar results. She said that the studies show that marijuana “is not quite the benign substance people thought it was.”

    CULTURAL

    Miley Cyrus lands in the hospital: http://rtvote.com/P5h4TE

    Paul Walker’s brothers to complete Fast & Furious 7 scenes: http://rtvote.com/1qJx0sP

    After a terminal brain cancer diagnosis, Valerie Harper says she is cancer-free! http://rtvote.com/1qJy3Ji

    Pharrell sheds tears with Oprah: watch the video! http://rtvote.com/1gGITfR

    Get the inside scoop on how Mila stays fit and healthy during her pregnancy: http://rtvote.com/1qJF0tD

    Veronica Barger
    Bio: Veronica is currently studying communications, law, economics, and government at American University in Washington, DC. Originally from New Jersey, she has held an interest in politics since the 2008 presidential election. Being a newly registered voter, she understands how important it is for young people to register to vote and have their voices heard. She looks to spread that message with Rock the Vote.

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com



    Democracy Day: A Call to Action

    Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

    Originally posted on Huffington Post by Ashley Garcia and Ammaarah Khan.

    Ashley Garcia and Ammaarah Khan are two high school seniors coming from opposite ends of the country with one very important interest in common: they are counting down the days to cast their first ballots, just like thousands of other young people across the country. Forty years ago, students and educators joined forces and fought to give 18-year-olds the right to vote with the passage of the 26th Amendment, and today, Rock the Vote is launching the first annual Democracy Day to invite thousands more young people to the conversation on the importance of civic engagement and voting. Rock the Vote briefly chatted with both Ammaarah and Ashley to find out what issues were most important to them.

    Rock the Vote: What problems are facing your neighborhood that you would like to see improved?

    Ammaarah Khan: New Jersey has been tightening its belt and cutting funds that impact education in all forms. In a town as large as Edison, these cuts hurt us. They cut clubs and teachers and slashed funding for many programs and classes that built students as individuals. Our schools are overcrowded and are slowly falling apart because we have no money to restore them. Edison students care about their neighborhood. They care about their education. I care. My only dream is that people will realize the importance of education and put some time into improving the infrastructure of the school instead of constantly lambasting them with ridicule.

    Ashley Garcia: In Spring Hill, just taking a walk down the street displays two major problems in our community: inadequate public transportation and a lack of sidewalks. I have resided in the town for nearly eleven years, but have seen little effort to find any solutions to these problems. Our current busing system rarely runs and has a limited number of routes, making it impossible to depend on the bus as a reliable form of transportation. Not only is improved public transportation necessary in times of high gas prices, but also vital as we transition into a time of greater energy efficiency. As for sidewalks, kids who want to ride their bikes around their neighborhoods and men and women who want to get a morning workout through the community have few options, which has led to many safety issues. Even more importantly, since the beginning of the recent recession, Spring Hill has seen a failing economy that has brought huge unemployment along with it. It is time for something to be done to bring Spring Hill back from the recession it has been in for years before it’s simply too late for the area to survive.

    RTV: Do you think your elected officials are doing a good job talking to young people about issues that are important to them?

    AK: In the beginning, I began to give up hope because I believed that my elected officials no longer cared about the students. However, earlier this year the New Jersey state legislature, headed by Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, held a town council meeting on the impact of budget cuts at my high school. Crammed in a high school auditorium, Senator Buono listened carefully to students and actively responded to their concerns. I think the elected officials in my district are trying to reach out, but I believe some other officials in my state are out of touch with us.

    AG: As I have become more politically involved in my community, I have been stunned by the lack of attention our politicians give our youth. Especially in my community, I have yet to see a single instance in which my elected officials have sought after the opinions of the area’s youth and asked what issues we believe need to be fixed. There seems to be a belief that young people are apathetic and indifferent about government and politics, but if we are asked what we think needs to be done to help our community, we’ll tell you. Young people are not just teenagers and college students who like to go to the beach and play video games, we have opinions and views that need to be heard in order to for elected officials to represent the community fully and truly.

    RTV: The 26th Amendment gave 18-year-olds the right to vote. Why is this right important to you?

    AK: My right to vote defines me. Ever since I was a young child, all I looked forward to was turning 18 and being able to vote. When I turned twelve, I told the poll workers my parents needed help in the booth — and election days became holidays for me. The competition, the passion, the feeling that a difference can be made through a vote. Just last month, I turned 18. The first thing I did was send in my voter registration form. The first election I will be able to vote in will be the school board election on April 27. Knowing that I will finally be able to have a say in my community means so much to me. I feel that now I can make a difference, no matter how small. I have a lot of ideas to share and opinions to talk about, and I feel as though voting is just the first step on this road to making my voice heard.

    AG: Although I am still a few months shy of turning 18, the 26th amendment has made a huge impact in my life. The right to vote is arguably the most important right given to the people in this country because it empowers and inspires its citizens to have the liberty to choose their leaders. I cannot imagine being forced to wait until my 21st birthday to mark a ballot. Even though 18 can seem like a young age to make a decision that will collectively impact the entire nation, it allows young people to take action and get involved in an arena they might not otherwise enter if forced to wait three more years. The 26th Amendment has allowed youth participation in our country and forced our elected officials to take a greater interest in their young voters. I look forward to the day I walk into my polling location for the first time to make my voice heard.

    RTV: What do you think is stopping young people from voting?

    AK: Maybe it’s the process, or a lack of motivation. I am spearheading a voter registration assembly at my high school to make everything that much easier: distributing the forms, walking my peers through the process, and mailing the forms out for everyone. This eliminates almost every piece of work for them. By motivating them at the assembly, I hope to instill a lifelong belief in the civic duty to vote. Once a person realizes the true importance of voting, then I honestly think it is impossible not to vote.

    AG: Even with a lower voting age and increased functions of technology available for youth participation, members of the young community continue to show low voter turnout across the nation. Every day in school, I sit among peers who see voting as a waste of time, as something reserved only for older people. At the time in your life when acne, dating, and what happened on “Jersey Shore” consume your every moment, it seems impossible to focus on what is going on politically in your community and country. Combined with the lack of recognition by the older members in our society and elected officials, the youth have been isolated into their own worlds, making many feel like our opinions don’t matter and that we can’t make a difference. We need to fix this and let young people know their voices are just as important as the voices of everyone else.

    RTV: What do you think is the best way to get students excited about voting?

    AK: The best way to get students excited to vote is to show them why voting is so important. Explaining why voting is an essential part of our democracy and highlighting how their votes are directly related to important decisions being made locally and nationally would motivate young people to turn out to the polls in far greater numbers.

    AG: As lower numbers students turn out to vote on Election Day, it is necessary that we reverse this and mobilize them as one of the most energetic and active forces in the country. When motivating our student population, I believe it is important to allow them to first see how important they are to society and to the political system by explaining how voting affects them and how important their votes really are. By engaging them in their civic duty to their communities and country, we will create a better environment where students know that their voices and votes really matter.

    It’s clear young people are ready to have a profound impact on their country, but without being invited to participate, it’s sometimes difficult to find the best avenues for participation. With the help of civically engaged students like Ammaarah, Ashley, and thousands more that Rock the Vote’s Democracy Day program will reach by the end of the school year, the millennial generation will be prepared to voice their opinions as a vital part of our country’s democracy. To participate in Democracy Day, sign up at democracyday.com.

    Aubrey Vaughan
    Bio: Aubrey is a field intern at Rock the Vote.
    @aubreyvaughan
    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com