We’ve Got Issues: A Weekly News & Politics Column

I am thankful to live and work in Chicago, by far the most exciting place in Illinois (sorry downstate folks, it’s just my honest opinion!).  But when it comes to presidential politics, Chicago is just as uneventful as the rest of the state.  I cannot remember a year in my lifetime when Illinois decided a presidential election.  Residents in states like Ohio and Florida receive lots of attention and money from presidential candidates because they are delegate rich and neither guaranteed Republican or Democratic turf.  Illinois, on the other hand, leans Democratic, courtesy of the sprawling metropolis of Chicago.
The state’s primary election this year was more exciting than usual because of the ongoing battle between Santorum and Romney — but only a little.  On March 20, months after the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, a majority of Illinois Republicans voted to nominate Romney.  The victory boosted his chances of eventually becoming the party’s nominee and his win was far from unpredictable.  Sigh.


Barack Obama’s Comments on Trayvon Martin

In my opinion, the best politicians try to avoid making politics personal.  While the Rush Limbaughs and Keith Olbermanns of the world are busy making personal attacks on politicians and their policies, skillful politicians must tiptoe around their personal feelings, lest they isolate their colleagues or certain segments of their constituency.  But there are also times when politics become personal and one can no longer avoid the fact.  Last week appears to have been such a time for President Obama, who finally commented on the rising fervor surrounding the February 26 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.  At a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, in response to a question, President Obama lamented the killing of Martin and told those attending the meeting that “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”  The president is not a judge, of course, and thus does not have the power to determine whether Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman, goes to jail or not.  But he does does have the power to change peoples’ minds, and by offering his perspective on the shooting, he has hopefully opened the minds and hearts of Americans who are having difficulty sympathizing with Martin’s grieving parents.  Those such as Dr. Keith Ablow – who contests whether Obama’s son would have really looked like the shooting victim – are nitpicking, and fail to see the bigger picture.
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
There is no good reason to smoke — unless you are addicted, of course (and even then, you are better of quitting now).  I do not say this as an uptight stiff with a hatred for all things fun, but as someone who got hooked on the habit as a college freshman and has been battling the urge to smoke ever since.  I lay part of the blame on the fact that I studied in Montreal, where it can at times appear as if everyone smokes.  In 2010, the Canadian province had a smoking rate of approximately 23%.  Yet, despite Quebecers’ addiction to tobacco, one good thing about the province (and Canada as a whole) is that the national government constantly reminds you how truly stupid what you are doing is.  In Canada, like many other countries around the world, cigarette packs come complete with graphic warnings of what prolonged smoking can do to your body.  So when the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit deemed that graphic warning labels on cigarette packs did not compromise their manufacturer’s right to free speech – something big tobacco was hoping would derail the upcoming change — I was pleased.  The law is part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, legislation which Obama, a former smoker himself, signed into law in 2009.  When I was in Canada, some of the images were so grueling — such as one picture depicting decaying teeth – that I saw one person specifically request from a convenience store clerk that their pack did not include a certain warning.  Hopefully the new graphic labels, which may debut in the US as soon as September 2012, will raise awareness and alarm at the consequences of smoking.

The Pope’s Sombrero
The popemobile has always been a subject of much fascination.  The vehicle, which appeared in its first form in 1930, frequently features a Mercedes-Benz emblem, and is used to protect the pope from large crowds that  often appear to catch a glimpse of him.  But photos of the pontiff on a recent visit to Mexico brought my attention to something else: a black sombrero on his head.  This is not a column about clothes and I am not here to say that the pope could have chosen a more fashionable outfit.  Nor do I think that the hat was offensive.  On the contrary, his donning the traditional Mexican hat appears to have been a friendly gesture, and he was pleased to be received so enthusiastically.  Still, I cannot help but view the pope’s decision to wear the hat as a contrived and corny gesture.  After all, when he visited the United States he did not appear in cowboy boots.  When he made a trip to France, he did not don a beret.  Unless he was ready to be mocked, his decision to wear a sombrero makes very little sense.  The media has had a field day discussing his fashion choice: the Huffington Post as well as the Washington Post have encouraged readers to submit a caption for photos of the pontiff in his hat.  It seems that the pope took the phrase “When in Rome do as the Romans do” a bit too seriously.  Then again, he lives in Rome, so I can understand why.
At first, Facebook wanted us to join their website.  And we did.  Then, the website wanted us to start posting what we were doing, or thinking.  And we did.  Several years later, whether we are on our phones, taking notes in class or at our desks at work, many of us spend all day sharing news, funny images and cool videos with our friends.  Despite considering leaving the website several times already, I have yet to do so.  For me and many of my friends who live across the world, the website is a useful way to keep in touch, something Facebook’s execs are well aware of.  But last week, Facebook went a little too far, by preparing to assert its exclusive right to the use of the word “book” as a suffix for a website domain (the corresponding change to the website’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, once it is made, will be found under bulletpoint 5, on line 6). The company’s stance has already cornered the web upstart Placebook.com (now known as TripTrace) into changing its name; to have an idea of the extent of absurdity involved here, consider that Placebook’s domain was registered in 2000, before Mark Zuckerberg even began attending Harvard.  But that’s not all.  Consider the fact that we used words such as “phonebook,” “notebook” and “yearbook” long before Zuckerberg was even born.  Facebook even took its name from what students called the official Harvard book featuring photos of the incoming freshman class (also known as a Freshman Register).  For many years the Winklevoss twins accused Zuckerberg of stealing their idea, so the Facebook founder should know how tiring legal battles can be.  Why can’t he be glad that his company has had the success that it has and leave today’s internet upstarts alone?

Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul I'm a remix culture enthusiast with a passion for the news and hip-hop. Born in 1989, I've visited every state except Hawaii and spent the last four years studying in Canada. Following a stint washing dishes as an illegal worker in a Montreal restaurant, I'm now trying to figure out how to become a YouTube star at my home in Chicago.

View all posts by Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul

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