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October 03, 2011 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-10-03

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4A Monday, October 3, 2011

4A --- Monday, October 3, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michieandailv.com

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

The Onion takes to Twitter




Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
Allother signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Funding warmth
State must ensure families can heat their homes
niversity students know too well the intensity of a Michi-
gan winter, which can begin in the fall and run well into the
spring. The severity of weather coupled with the state's con-
cerning economic situation - Michigan has the third-highest unem-
ployment in the country, and approximately 17 percent of the state's
population is in poverty - may lead to serious problems for impover-
ished residents who try to heat their homes this winter.

Where were you when the
United States Congress
overpowered the Capi-
tol Police and
took a group of
innocent school-
children hos-
tage, refusing
to release them
unless their $12
trillion ransom
demand was
met? N ILL
If you saw MOHAMMAD
the story as it
broke last Fri-
day, then you were on Twitter. The
Onion, a satirical weekly newspa-
per, has played with the Twitter-
as-1930s-radio-play format before
- like earlier this year, when a
nuclear fallout-powered, 500-foot-
tall, zombified Osama Bin Laden
flattened New York City. Even if you
weren't on Twitter, you might have
heard the story anyway thanks to
the legions of humorless killjoys
who thought it was in bad taste. The
Onion's openingtweet accounted for
most of the criticism: "BREAKING:
Witness reportingscreams and gun-
fire heard inside Capitol building."
An hour later, a hostage managed
to send out camera phone footage
of the "situation," which The Onion
also tweeted.
Heady stuff. The shocking head-
line certainly looked real enough.
But then, you might also expect that
if there really were a running gun
battle and hostage situation in the
center of our American democracy,
then a few more sources might have
reported the news. Given that any-
one who read the tweet also neces-
sarily had Internet access, they had
all the information needed to dis-
cover it was a hoax.
Popular reactions to the story
fell into three distinct groups. Some
were completely unaware the story
was actually fictitious - this group

included the police, who appar-
ently reported to the Capitol to see
for themselves whether The Onion
had really gotten the scoop of the
century. Some, like the profession-
ally angry and misinformed com-
mentator Michelle Malkin, blamed
the Democrats. The rest found the
storyline - the gunshots on the
House floor, John McCain attempt-
ing to fly the escape jet, a la Con Air,
President Barack Obama picking up
a bullhorn and taking over the police
lying somewhere on the other side
of the problematic invisible line that
divides acceptable and unacceptable
Why? The punch line of The
Onion story was that Congress
ultimately deadlocked over how to
handle the ransom negotiation. And
deadlock - taking political hostages
- is easier now than ever before. In
The Onion's version, Speaker of the
House John Boehner needed a ski
mask and a gun; in the real world,
a single senator can anonymously
threaten to object to a bill and pre-
vent it from reaching a vote. Politi-
cal hostage takers don't even have
to risk their reputations anymore.
In 2006, an unknown senator man-
aged to put an anonymous hold on a
bill that would have created a more
transparent account of government
Perhaps critics were upset that the
joke implied violence toward chil-
dren. But the 2010 Census showed 10
percent of American children under
age 18 do not have health insurance,
and the U.S. regularly trails almost
all other wealthy, post-industrial
democracies in matters such as life
expectancy and infant mortality. The
Onion claimed that Congress had
terrorized a few dozen kids, but it
certainly caused the deaths of many
more in the course of everyday busi-
ness. And while the 2010 health care
reform package should eventually

provide coverage for some of those
children - a mere 37 years after for-
mer President Richard Nixon first
proposed a national health insurance
plan - court challenges and Repub-
lican opposition make it likely that
many more will, through no fault of
their own, be denied basic care.
Faux news story
sheds light on
real concerns.
That'sjust one example, of course.
You can replace that entire last para-
graph with your issue of choice,
from the dramatic to the mundane.
The prestigious medical journal
Lancet reckons that 650,000 civil-
ians were killed in Iraq between
2003 and 2006 because of the Amer-
ican war effort there, for example.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention figures that
3,000 people are killed in the U.S.
every year by food-borne disease,
and the House passed a bill last June
that would cut $285 million from
the Food and Drug Administration,
which among other things is respon-
sible for food safety inspections.
These are all things that are actu-
ally happening in the world around
us and not just in the headlines of
a fake newspaper from Wiscon-
sin. The scale of the unnecessary
destruction that's implied by the
seemingly normal and ordinary
functioning of our society and poli-
tics is dizzying and immense. So,
if The Onion's Twitter-play was in
such bad taste where does that leave
everything else?
- Neill Mohammad can be
reached at neilla@umich.edu.


Previously, a state-funded program, the
Low Income and Energy Efficiency Fund,
provided assistance to citizens who could not
pay their heating bills. The program, howev-
er, has run out of money. This leaves 95,000
people who rely on the LIEEF to supplement
thei rising heating costs without this addi-
tional source of income. The Legislature must
allocate funds to the program to ensure low-
income individuals can properly heat their
Thousands of families in need, especially in
cit-ieslike Detroit and Flint, live in homes built
with: poor insulation that can be extremely
expensive to properly heat. Each year, stories
of residents being hospitalized due to exces-
sive heat or cold capture headlines. The State's
Customer Choice and Electricity Reliability
Act Hof 2000 created LIEEF to address these
and other problems. The program was origi-
nally supported by funding from the state and
a coitlibution from the Detroit Edison Com-
pony. In subsequent years, other energy com-
panies also have given to the fund.
The issue with funding arose in July when
a state appeals court struck down the state's
sytem for funding LIEEF, and the Legisla-
tuire has not enacted a new system. LIEEF
bagan providing assistance in 2002 based on
tle utility rate used by DTE and Consumers

Energy Co. - Michigan's two largest utility
companies. The appeals court, however, ruled
that lawmakers failed to authorize the fee
when they rewrote state energy laws several
years ago. Rep. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth),
chair of the state House energy committee,
said the Legislature must figure out a way to
fund the $60 million in utility assistance.
According to a Detroit News article, as a
stopgap measure, Michigan law states that no
utility company can stop heating a household
between Nov. 1 and March 30. The measure
is a relief for many. It is unclear, however, if it
will be renewed for the following winter, and
the move has prompted social service groups
to scramble to help pay heating bills until the
end of the month. And with the likelihood of
extremely cold temperatures and even snow
after the March 30 cut-off point, people with-
out heating assistance could have a serious
problem. It's crucial for this funding to be per-
manently reinstated so families in need do not
suffer in the extreme cold.
While residents will be ensured heat in
their homes starting in amonth, the possibil-
ity that heat will be required in October poses
a dangerous situation. The state needs to find
funding to keep LIEEF functioning and make
sure heat is available for Michigan residents
in need.

Aida Ali, Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer, Patrick Maillet,
Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Emily Orley,
Teddy Papes, Timothy Rabb, Seth Soderborg, Andrew Weiner



Living life online



aily editorials should be
cornsistent on issues
The Michigan Daily's editorial that ran
Ionday, Sept. 26 takes the position that the
d ath penalty has no place in civilized society
( rom the Daily: A fatal penalty, 9/25/2011).
Bit the very next day, the same space on the
page states, partial-birth abortion is a per-
scnal decision (From the Daily: The right to
choose, (9/26/2011). We at Students for Life
find it hard to take the position on capital
punishment credibly with the Daily advocat-
ing against a ban on partial-birth abortion.
It is unreasonable to ask the United States
add the 34 states with capital punishment to
abolish it for the sake of preserving the lives
of those found guilty in court, while one does
not oppose the taking of life from those who
have committed no crime at all.
Given how many people wrongly convicted
add sentenced to death have had their inno-
cence proven by DNA, it seems fundamen-
A note to Mary Sue Coleman
on sustainability initiative

tally inconsistent on human rights to forcibly
end someone's life when his or her unique
DNA proves he or she is a living human being
who has committed no crime. How can the
editorial disregard such a basic scientific fact
and state that the unborn is part of a woman's
body when it does not have her DNA, much
less heart beat, brain waves and sometimes
blood type? The ignorance is astounding.
Students for Life as a club is also opposed
to the death penalty. However, we assert that
it is self-evident the guilty cannot have a
greater right to life than the innocent. Addi-
tionally, it is far less inhumane to kill some-
one by lethal injection than cutting open
their skull and vacuuming out their brain.
Individual liberty should never be subject
to anyone's choice or personal preferences.
Ultimately, we believe the Daily conveys the
height of hypocrisy by seeking to abolish the
death penalty while refusing to even con-
demn abortion.
James Perry and Andrew Patton
Graduate students, writing on behalf of
Students for Life
out learning about the basics of environmen-
tal conservation and sustainability because
those concepts are an immutable part of the
world in which we live. David Orr, a profes-
sor of environmental studies, once said that to
"teach economics ... without reference to the
laws of thermodynamics or those of ecology is
to teach a fundamentally important ecological
lesson: that physics and ecology have nothing
to do with the economy." Everything is con-
nected, and our education about the environ-
ment needs to reflect that.
Now, this will mean negotiating with the
heads of the many schools that make up the
University to fit more material into already
packed academic schedules, but it is essen-
tial that this be done. It would also provide
the additional benefit of cutting the costs
of setting up new classes if we could instead
educate our current faculty. The knowledge
that we are receiving at the University comes
with the responsibility to use it for the bet-
terment of our society, and we cannot hope to
make a meaningful use of it unless we truly
understand how our work fits into the greater
scheme of the world around us.
Gabe Altomare
LSA sophomore

In what was perhaps the most
significant example of meta-
social networking in recent
memory, Face-
book users took
to Facebook last
week to com-
ment on the ,
changes made to
Facebook. Most
of these altera-
tions were pret- MICHELLE
ty minor - the DEWITT
giant photos that
now show up on
the newsfeed,
the weird recent stories and top sto-
ries distribution - but that didn't
stop users from becoming, in many
cases, irrationally angry.
And who can blame them? Peo-
ple form and build relationships on
Facebook. They track where they
are, who they're with and what
they're doing on the site. Everything
short of a bowel movement can be
documented on the social network,
so when changes are made it can be a
difficult emotional blow.
Along with the visible changes
recently made to Facebook, the
company announced some future
alterations at the Facebook f8 devel-
oper conference in September.
These changes include swapping out
the traditional profile with Time-
line, which seeks to chronologically
display users' complete Facebook
history, and implementing a system
called Open Graph that allows com-
panies to synch their apps directly
with Facebook.
In a nutshell, Facebook aims to
share all the ways in which people
are living their lives in real time, and
this effort is already becoming vis-
ible. For example, Facebook users
can synch their Spotify - a digital
music service - accounts directly
to their profiles, so friends can see
what they're listening to as they're
listeningto it.

While Facebook executives like
Mark Zuckerberg are enthused
about the changes to come and view
them as a logical progression for the
site, I can't help but wonder about
the societal implications of putting
virtually every aspect of life online.
Before you chalk this idea up to
melodrama, it's importantto consid-
er the role social networking plays in
modern life.
Facebook currently has 800 mil-
lion users. The site has been cred-
ited as having a role in organizing
the London riots this past summer
and the protests in Egypt earlierthis
year. A recent study also indicated
Twitter's capacity to reveal trends in
the overall mood of users. People are
increasingly living their lives online,
and with each post the line between
one's private life and the life they.
broadcast on the Internet becomes
increasingly blurred.
So, what does it mean that Face-
book wants to outline users' lives
on the site - the option will also
exist to add pre-Facebook informa-
tion - and link their actions with
third-party companies instanta-
neously to a profile? It means that
Facebook is becoming increasingly
less intimate (though intimacy
among several hundred friends was
a stretch to begin with) and much
more public. In a culture where the
phrase over-sharing is a dramatic
understatement for what informa-
tion we choose to communicate,
friendswill now be able to see what
you're reading, where you're shop-
ping and what you're watching as
you're doing it.
Making the decision of what to
share is a problem unique for young
people today. Unlike older genera-
tions that valued self-reliance and
discretion, living on the Internet has
turned personal triumphs and trag-
edies into conversation pieces for the
masses. One of the chief stereotypes
of our generation is that we possess a

certain flair for narcissism, and our
belief that every action of our lives
is significant enough to be shared
online with the world at large does
nothing to dispute that stereotype.
Facebook aims to
share everything
on the Internet.
This generational divide became
evident for me this summer when I
worked as an intern for a law firm
and was responsible forteaching the
lawyers how to use LinkedIn and
social media to market themselves
online. Most of the people I worked
with were in their 40s or older, and
they met my instructions with one of
two reactions. Some marveled at dis-
covering what could be done online,
what could be shared and how they
could apply it to their work. Others
were skeptical and couldn't fathom
incorporating more advanced tech-
nologythan e-mail into their day-to-
day life. Both reactions pointed out
a major generational gap. Members
of older generations viewed social
media as something counterintui-
tive, but members of younger gener-
ations - for the most part - couldn't
imagine their lives without it.
The question that exists now is
how will people react to the changes
in online living. I doubt Facebook's
modifications, which happen rela-
tively frequently, will be completely
life altering. However, I think they
will force users to contemplate how
much of their lives they want to put
on the Internet and what, if any-
thing, they want to remain private.
- Michelle DeWitt is the
co-editorial page editor. She can be
reached at dewittm@umich.edu.

President Coleman,
I want to congratulate you on your recent
a dress on sustainability. It represents a step
tqward the truth that environmental aware-
ness is not a side issue, but a core issue of every
updertaking. The student body is not fully
aware that everything we do has an impact on
toie environment, and that all education needs
ti be environmentally minded. I am particu-
1lrly pleased with your efforts to reach out to
the student body with the Planet Blue Ambas-
sadors program, and with our ever increasing
stlaff of sustainability-minded teachers. How-
ejer, sustainability needs to be integrated into
tle curriculum at an even more fundamental
level so that every student who graduates has
a basis in the field.
It's my recommendation that we need to set
aside the idea of creating more sustainability-
focused classes for the broader goal of incor-
porating sustainability into all our courses.
It is a fallacy to assume that a student can
receive a complete education in any field with-


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